You’re probably aware that the oil price drop has had a big effect on several parts of the workboat industry.

The biggest impact has been on offshore service vessel and rig operators. You could say the next biggest impact has been on Gulf Coast shipyards with strong ties to the energy sector.

As Ken Hocke reports in WorkBoat’s October cover story that will hit the streets soon, some shipyards that had record OSV backlogs just two years ago have seen order books dry up. This has occurred as OSV operators stack boats in canals, bayous and tributaries all around southeast Louisiana.

Sure, it’s a tough time to be a shipyard owner in the Gulf, but as in past down cycles, some “improvise, adapt and overcome,” said Joseph Rodriguez, president, Rodriguez Shipbuilding, Bayou La Batre, Ala.

One of those yards is A&B Industries. A&B has always built inland towboats, and that’s what has got them through this down cycle.

Another yard that is surviving is Conrad Industries. The company has seen a softer repair market and a decrease in its backlog compared to last year, but the shipyard is working on several interesting newbuild projects. Its Orange, Texas, yard is building a 232'×48'8"×15'8" dedicated LNG bunker barge — the first in North America. Another project involves the construction of an articulated tug/barge unit underway at Conrad’s yard in Amelia, La.

Then there’s Eastern Shipbuilding Group in the Florida panhandle. The yard has done considerable OSV-related work in recent years for Harvey Gulf International Marine, Hornbeck Offshore and Brazil’s Bravante Group and is still busy with a couple of OSVs. But Eastern has plenty of other work on its books. This includes a recently signed deal to build four 134’x42’ inland towboats for Latin America, several Z-drive tugs, two hopper dredges, and even a commercial fishing vessel.

So as you can see, it’s not all about oil and gas on the Gulf Coast, and yards with diversified order books are doing OK during the current down energy cycle.   

David Krapf has been editor of WorkBoat, the nation’s leading trade magazine for the inland and coastal waterways industry, since 1999. He is responsible for overseeing the editorial direction of the publication. Krapf has been in the publishing industry since 1987, beginning as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers in the Houston area. He also was the editor of a transportation industry daily in New Orleans before joining WorkBoat as a contributing editor in 1992. He has been covering the transportation industry since 1989, and has a degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego, and also studied journalism at the University of Houston.