I just finished writing the cover story for WorkBoat’s July issue. It’s all about U.S. shipyards. Between the “Shipyards” section of the magazine’s Yearbook issue in June and July’s cover story, I’ve been awash in a sea of shipyards.

What I’ve found is that the shipyard industry, as a whole, is in very good shape and should stay that way into the near future. Matt Paxton, president of the Shipbuilders Council of America (SCA), agrees with me.

“The state of the industry is strong. On average, U.S. shipyards deliver about 1,300 vessels [annually] of all size and utility. Shipyards and shipyard suppliers support over 400,000 American jobs in all 50 states,” said Paxton. “Today, we are witnessing an uptick in several markets including inland tug and barge and offshore supply vessels, as well as a relative boom in the construction of large product carriers and the recapitalization of the non-contiguous containership fleet. The industry is also innovating and becoming world leaders in LNG–power technology.”

The story is not a who is building what type, but rather a look at how the energy boom has produced so much work for so many, the continuing problem of where the next generation of shipyard workers are coming from and what changes are ahead for the shipyard industry.  

“As the shipyard industry reacts to the massive domestic shale energy boom, I expect the inland and coastwise product carrying markets to continue to be strong,” said Paxton. “We also expect more work as a result of looming environmental regulations that lower emission standards for vessels. This is one of the drivers for the start of the non-contiguous fleet recapitalization, as well as the push to LNG power on those vessels. Regarding OSV’s, I think the future lies with the expansion of access to offshore oil and gas development. Right now, the OSV market is dependent almost entirely on parts of the Gulf of Mexico and the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in Alaska, which are the only areas open for drilling. SCA will continue to advocate for opportunities to responsibly expand the access for offshore development.”

But what about pilot boats and passenger vessels and patrol boats? Aren’t they just as important, one might ask? Yes, they are important, particularly to yards that specialize in building such vessels. However, no other industry, currently, is responsible for the shear numbers of boats being built than the oil and gas industry. Any yard that can get its hands on building equipment for the oil and gas industry would gladly do so.

Frank Foti, president and CEO, Vigor Industries, Portland, Ore., said his shipyard business would like to expand beyond the northwest. Asked if the Gulf Coast were a possibility for such expansion, Foti said, “Sure. Yes.”

So look for the story when you get your July issue of WorkBoat.



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.