When I was a young man I had a bookie named Duke. In those days only Vegas and Atlantic City had casinos and placing a bet legally in New Orleans outside of going to the racetrack was virtually impossible. And when I couldn’t get to the track, I could always call up Duke. (There were no offtrack betting facilities then.)
I haven’t used a bookie in 25 years and I heard old Duke moved back to Texas years ago. But I was thinking recently about how he would handicap the different sectors of the workboat industry in terms of a horse race. (That's the way my mind works. What can I say?)
First he would probably say that the offshore industry’s glory days are over. But it can still be a force to be reckoned with once it gets over some injuries. For now, it would be looked at as a long shot.
The barge industry has some good legs, but it got in its own way in recent years by overbuilding equipment. I’d say Duke would put its odds at somewhere around 25-1.
Tugs is a sector that is consistently dependable, not a lot of highs and lows. It would go off at even money.
The favorite would definitely be the passenger vessel industry and its owners and operators. That sector would go off at around 2-5 odds if the race were run tomorrow.
As for shipyards, those that build for the passenger vessel and other non-energy markets will finish in the money while others will have a harder time.
In WorkBoat’s upcoming February issue cover story, Dale DuPont takes a look at how well the passenger vessel industry is doing. “The industry at large is experiencing great economic conditions. As a result many operators are looking at buying or building new vessels,” Passenger Vessel Association executive director John Groundwater told Dale. “Several shipyards who were once members of PVA are looking to rejoin the association because they want to re-enter the passenger vessel market.”
It wasn't always this way. In Capt. Alan Bernstein’s Captain’s Table column in the February issue, he writes, “From 2008 up until the past few years, the passenger vessel industry has been coping with a sluggish business climate. This caused us to reevaluate and restructure our businesses to cope with changing markets. While this exercise was painful, I believe it was absolutely necessary.”
And it’s paying off now. Passenger vessel owners and operators are in the money, and they’re enjoying the ride. You can bet on it.