What the workboat industry needs is another trade show. Now, now, I know what you’re thinking: Hocke, have you lost your mind? Well, no, I haven’t — yet.

Stay with me for a minute. A lot of what we do at the magazine is report on new vessels that are coming into the industry. Whether it’s a $600,000 municipal fire/rescue boat or a $40 million offshore service vessel, we like to get into the particulars of the vessels and show nice, shiny pictures of the latest nice, shiny boats. It’s great. Our readers like it and we like bringing them to you.

But what happens after that? Does the boat and its company live happily ever after? Maybe. But it takes some effort. No, it takes a lot of effort. Somebody has to take care of the boats once they’re in the fleet. The fleet might only be two aluminum crewboats or it might be 46 towboats and 1,000 barges or something else. The point is that all the boats need to be maintained. And the maintenance and repair of these vessels deserve to have a brighter light shined on them. It’s hard work. It’s expensive. The men and women who maintain the U.S. workboat fleets have to be cognizant of everything that goes on with every boat, and they have to be able to stay within a budget to get it done. And balancing parts inventory? It gives me a headache just thinking about it. And what about fluids? Forget it

So, we decided that these men and women should have their own show. Of course, maintenance and repair are integral parts of the International WorkBoat Show in December every year. But we thought it would be a good idea to give the maintenance and repair people their own show, with products and services particularly suited to their needs. We floated the idea to the vendors and they bought up the floor space like it was waterfront property. So, next week, April 14-16, at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, the WorkBoat Maintenance & Repair Conference and Expo will make its debut. “Maintenance is an ongoing thing,” said Signal Ship Repair’s senior vice president and general manager Bob Beckmann. “A lot depends on what the crew does. How well they maintain what they’re supposed to maintain from electronics to towing gear to underwater stuff, depending on the vessel”

In addition to all the products and services on display, we’ll have a full schedule of conferences dealing with issues specific to maintenance and repair. We also have two heavy hitters as our keynoters: Capt. Nick Sloane, salvage master for the Costa Concordia wreck removal and Terry Bowden, former college football coach and current sports analyst. These two men know something about teamwork, I’d say.

So, come on and join us in New Orleans. We think it will be worth your time. And you know about the food and the music and….

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.