I try to stay as positive as possible, though as a journalist, that is often a tough thing to do. And staying positive is being put to the ultimate test during the coronavirus pandemic.
In the June issue due out later this month, our annual Yearbook cover story is all about Covid-19 and its effect on the industry. Most of the news is bad, but people are trying to stay positive. The notable exception is the offshore energy sector, which has been beaten down for several years and is now being hit by a demand-sapping, double whammy of low oil prices and Covid-19. Early this year many were optimistic that deepwater drilling demand would strengthen in 2020. Now, offshore drillers and others face bankruptcy.
John Groundwater, executive director of the Passenger Vessel Association, said that most of PVA’s 300 passenger vessel operators have ceased operations. “The industry is by and large shut down,” he said.
That includes PVA member BB Riverboats. The company expanded recently based on the positive long-term outlook for the passenger vessel industry. “Then this happens,” said owner Alan Bernstein. “But I am hopeful that people will still celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and they will think of us to do that. We are very optimistic that we are going to be OK.”
We also heard some optimism from the tug and barge sector.
Austin Golding, president of Golding Barge Line, a Vicksburg, Miss.-based tank barge operator, said that thus far, the company has managed to stay busy.
“And really, a bigger concern is keeping our guys healthy so that we have enough people to man every boat, and not have an outbreak on a boat.”
The barge operator is still hiring and making sure they have adequate crews in case a Covid-19 outbreak occurs. “We’ve actually hired more people,” Golding said. “I have crews being paid to quarantine, to be sure that if I have an outbreak on a boat I have a crew on the sideline that has been paid to be home and be safe.”
Golding is optimistic. “I feel the economy is going to get back to normal once we get past this virus.”
Others I talked to said they were looking forward to the WorkBoat Show this December, and hoped that it will still be held. They feel that it is important for the industry. We agree.