In this year’s Yearbook report in our June issue, we once again reported on each of the major workboat sectors. There was plenty of good news and bad, and we covered it all.

In this blog, I’m just going to highlight the positives.

The tug sector continues to hum along. The market saw notable firsts over the year, including the arrival of Tier 4 engines and emission control systems.

Tier 4 tug designs from Jensen Maritime Consultants led the way, with the Earl W Redd, a 120'×35'×19'3" offshore towing and ship assist tug for Harley Marine Services. It is outfitted with the first Caterpillar Tier 4 engines installed in a U.S. tug — a pair of 2,675-hp 3516Cs.

On the East Coast, McAllister Towing and Transportation has added the first pair of what will be four Jensen-designed Tier 4 6,770-hp tugs to its fleet.

In the shipyard sector, yards that build ferries, military and government patrol boats, tugs and other non-energy related vessels are busy. Another sector that has seen some activity is specialized articulated tug-barges. This includes ATBs for liquefied natural gas (LNG) and ammonia. There have also been several more traditional ATBs built or are under construction.

Ferries are one of the hottest sectors of a passenger vessel market that’s cruising along in a favorable economy, adding new vessels and refurbishing older ones. This includes refurbishment work on vessels that are being transformed into overnight inland river cruise boats to meet demand.

Passenger vessel operators say they simply don’t have enough space, and that’s why they are building and refurbishing so many boats.

Even barge operators seem to be getting close to emerging from a market that has been plagued by oversupply, lower freight rates and bad weather. The dry cargo barge sector is expected to benefit from a surge in demand for export coal, metallurgic coal, corn, fertilizer, soybeans and aluminum. There’s also been strong demand for other barged bulk commodities such as cement, steel raw materials and frac sand, due mostly to overall improvements in the national economy.

Yes, there was a lot of good news to report in the last 12 months, and with the recent rays of hope from the depressed offshore sector, more may be on the way.

David Krapf has been editor of WorkBoat, the nation’s leading trade magazine for the inland and coastal waterways industry, since 1999. He is responsible for overseeing the editorial direction of the publication. Krapf has been in the publishing industry since 1987, beginning as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers in the Houston area. He also was the editor of a transportation industry daily in New Orleans before joining WorkBoat as a contributing editor in 1992. He has been covering the transportation industry since 1989, and has a degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego, and also studied journalism at the University of Houston.