The offshore oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico will not look the same as it has in the past when the up cycle finally shows itself. There is every reason to believe that the number of offshore service vessels available in the Gulf will far outnumber the amount of jobs that need those vessels. While no one could have predicted the depth of the plunge in utilization the industry is currently experiencing, savvy naval architects and marine engineers took a longer view of their designs when they were putting together their projects over the past few years.

“Good OSV designers keep this cyclic nature of the business in consideration,” Anil Raj, P.E., owner, Technology Associates Inc., told an industry group at the recent WorkBoat Regional Summit “OSV Outlook for 2016 and Beyond” in Houston. “This makes the shareholder and financier feel more stable.”

Raj said that some architects are looking at alternative uses for OSVs. Most of these options would be one-offs, but thinking in terms not normally thought about when it comes to OSVs is better than doing nothing. Some of the possible options for OSVs include using the boats as containerized cargo vessels, military and search and rescue boats, yachts and excursion vessels, trawlers and seafood processors, research and survey vessels, wind support vessels and more. “Water borne transportation is the most cost effective and environmentally friendly mode of transport on a dollar per ton basis,” said Raj. “Economic recessions in one marine sector or geographic area of the world do not always mean it is the same everywhere. Marine vessels are mobile.”

Bill Lind, vice president of operations, Vard Marine, was on the same panel as Raj and told those in attendance that his company’s clients tend to have long-range outlooks and are not easily spooked into excitability and panic. Another important attribute is adaptability. “We don’t want to fool ourselves about what industry we’ve joined,” he said. “Diversity is essential to improve and survive,” Lind said.

Going forward the industry would do better to maintain niche markets and scrap older, expensive tonnage, Lind said. Tomorrow’s OSV will have to be able to go farther offshore, spend more time on station, employ a fuel- efficient double chine and slow their speed. “We believe the offshore field will be back,” he said. “As a design firm, if you are not constantly looking at evolving, you are left behind.”

Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.