The Passenger Vessel Association's annual convention will be held later this month in Seattle, against a backdrop similar to last year. The offshore oil and gas sector is still sluggish while passenger vessel operators continue to see growth and enjoy strong demand.
The offshore industry had another tough year, but ended 2016 on an optimistic note with oil prices receiving a boost from OPEC’s production cut agreement. However, it remains to be seen if OPEC will stick to the production limits and whether any of this will eventually trickle down and help offshore rig and boat operators.
There is no shortage of optimism in the passenger vessel sector, which has been enjoying several years of strong demand and growth. This is being seen in many areas: overnight river and coastal cruising, ferry services, water taxis, etc. The strength of the overall passenger vessel market can be measured by the demand for good used casino boats with good steel.
In the past year, several casino boats have changed hands. This includes boats in Iowa and Illinois that are being refurbished to provide dinner and sightseeing cruises and overnight cruising on the inland waterways.
In Dale DuPont’s February cover story on the passenger vessel industry due out at the end of the month, she discusses casino boat conversions and the recent growth in water taxi services. New water taxi projects include one in the San Francisco Bay area and projects in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
Maritime Applied Physics Corp. is building 10 water taxis for Under Armour chief Kevin Plank’s Sagamore Ventures, which last summer bought Harbor Boating Inc., operator of Baltimore’s water taxi service. The first boat, the 55'×12'9", 49-passenger Keys Anthem, debuted in October.
Farther south, Entertainment Cruises, in partnership with The Wharf, a $2 billion waterfront development, will expand Washington’s water taxi service with four new 100-130-passenger vessels. The first two water taxis are due out late this year and the next two in early 2018.
Add to this the big expansion of ferry services in New York and the approval of fast-ferry services in the Seattle area. The $48 million plan for Kitsap County will return the low-wake Rich Passage 1 to service and build five more ferries. There should be a lot to talk about this and other projects at the PVA show beginning Jan. 28. I will blog from Seattle to let you know what’s going on.