WorkBoat recently announced its 10 Significant Boats of 2023. Eligible boats appeared in WorkBoat between December 2022 and November 2023.

As always, we had dozens of boats to choose from. It’s a testament to the workboat shipbuilding industry that so many of the boats built at our shipyards are so very impressive. It also makes choosing just 10 boats that much harder.

We try to select at least one newbuild boat from each sector of the industry that WorkBoat covers — inland towboats and barges, tugs, offshore service vessels, passenger vessels, etc. In addition, if possible, we try to select at least one boat from each boatbuilding region of the U.S. — East Coast, West Coast, Gulf Coast, and the Great Lakes.

Consequently, some top of the line boats don’t make the cut because we already have too many tugs or too many boats from the Gulf Coast, etc.

Sometimes, we choose a boat that doesn't meet these guidelines. For example, this year, one of the boats we selected is the Capt. Les Eldredge, a 62'x21' crew transfer vessel for the offshore wind industry. The boat was not built new over the past 12 months. It’s a converted charter fishing boat.

As we have often said, this is not a marine engineering/naval architect award. While engineering is certainly a big part of what goes into a boat, it is not the only thing. We leave that to our friends at SNAME.

No, our choices are more subjective. Maybe it’s where the boat operates or who it serves. Maybe its designers are trying to build something considered too radical by current standards, but will lead to something greater down the road. 

The hardest boat to deal with is not in the Top 10. It’s Number 11. Some years there is an obvious Number 11. Some years there are five or 10.

For example, it was hard to leave off Kirby Inland Marine’s Green Diamond, the country’s first electric hybrid inland towboat. From Italy, the 168.3'x39.4'x20.3', 1,350-gt search and rescue vessel Life Support was delivered to Emergency Ong, an international humanitarian organization, founded in Italy in 1994 to provide free surgical and medical assistance. The owner and manager of the boat is Italy’s Prua Rossa SRL, Milano. That certainly seems significant. It’s also gratifying that a company in Italy wanted to be named a Significant Boat.

You may have looked at this year’s list and thought that WorkBoat knows nothing about shipbuilding if we didn’t include your boat in place of some others that made the cut. We understand. We did the best we could.

Hopefully, you will lend your expertise to naming our Boat of the Year. Voting for the Boat of the Year is now underway and will remain open until Oct. 27.

Anyone can vote for the Boat of the Year, from deckhands and welders to fleet managers and CEOs. 

And remember, there’s always next year.

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.

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