The numbers have been crunched for WorkBoat’s 2015 Construction Survey. To accumulate our totals, we ask shipyards across the U.S. to tell us what is in their yards. More specifically, we ask them what boats have been contracted for, are under construction or have been recently delivered within the past 12 months. That 12-month period goes from April 2015 to March 2016. Why not make it easier by collecting the numbers from January through December? We publish the annual survey in the March issue of the magazine. The publishing industry, like all others, has its quirks.
It should also be noted that shipyards are under no obligation to participate and will, at times, be told by their customers not to tell us what the yard is building for them. Consequently, a shipyard may send us a listing with four boats under construction. In reality, there might be six boats being built there, but the owner of boats five and six doesn’t want that information put out there. The idea is that an owner’s competition would be able to see what he or she is building. In the case of the Gulf Coast, however, workers move from yard to yard for an extra 25 cents an hour, and they drink at the same bars where guys from other yards drink. Everybody knows what everybody else is building. Yet we accommodate those who wish to stay secretive about what’s being built. Even if we know about a contract at a particular yard, we won’t include it in the survey, if we’ve been asked not to do so.
The survey’s total this year reached 508, compared to 628 last year, a rather significant drop of just under 20% But that 508 is a fluid number. Why? Shipyards like Jeanerette, La.-based Metal Shark, which has five IDIQ (indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity) contracts, may be working on 12 identical patrol boats on a IDIQ contract today and three months from now get word that another 12 have been given the green light on that contract.
“Every year the government adds boats against those IDIQs,” said Metal Shark’s owner, Chris Allard.
Speaking of patrol boats, it led all categories with 101 boats listed, compared to 82 last year. That’s better than a 20% increase. Some of the other yards that have multiple patrol boat contracts include Bollinger Shipyards, Fincantieri Marine Group, Austal USA, Kvichak Marine Industries, Ribcraft USA, Safe Boats International and Willard Marine.
Passenger vessels was another area where strong gains were seen. The Dinner, Excursion and Sightseeing category more than doubled from last year, going from nine to 19. A stronger economy that allows for more discretionary income was seen as a major motivator there. The Fire/Rescue listing also doubled from last year’s eight to this year’s 16. The category Barges also showed some real growth, going from 59 in 2014 to 82 this year.
Tugs remained strong, moving ahead of last year’s number of 49 to this year’s tally of 55. That category is as steady as any year after year.
Losers in this year’s survey included Supply boats, which dipped from 79 last year to 51 this year and Crewboats/Personnel Launch that tumbled from 39 in 2014 to just 10 this year. The collapse of the oil and gas industry has been the real story this year in the shipyard industry. Signal International filed for Chapter 11 protection, partly because of falling oil prices. Harvey Gulf International Marine bought Gulfport, Miss.-based Gulf Coast Shipyard Group, where Harvey Gulf’s 310'x64' dual-fuel (LNG and diesel) PSVs are being built. Gulf Island Fabrication’s purchase of Leevac Shipyards for $20 million in January is an example of consolidation that’s good for the industry. The acquisition represents a perfect illustration of two companies that know each other well and that is expected to realize immediate benefits, according to Chris Vaccari, Leevac’s former president and now Gulf Island Shipyard’s LLC vice president and general manager. “It just made sense. It’s a good fit,” he said. “We have a lot of customers in common.”
The biggest loser on our survey graph came in the Other Military category, which plummeted from 196 in 2014 to just 78 this year. However, there are a number of contracts in this category that are listed as “multiple” and for our purposes are only counted as one.
Check out the entire Construction Survey in the March 2016 issue of WorkBoat.