In the upcoming issue of WorkBoat, Bruce Buls writes about how the domestic oil boom is hitting the shipbuilding industry and spurring demand for articulated tug-barges.

We’re currently seeing companies like Kirby, Bouchard Transportation, Moran Towing, Harley Marine Services and others beef up their ATB fleets. This comes on the heels of Crowley Maritime’s ATB buildup. The company had the foresight to invest over $1 billion in the last decade on an ATB newbuild program that produced 17 ATBs ranging in capacity from 155,000 to 330,000 bbls.

The current impetus is the domestic energy boom, especially from shale oil production. Oil companies need to move a lot of product from U.S. Gulf terminals to U.S. refineries. That means that U.S. flag tankers and ATBs are in great demand.

This ATB/energy boom is not only keeping shipyards busy but architects as well. For example, Guarino & Cox said this is the busiest the firm has ever been, with 10 ATB projects ranging from 100,000 to 250,000 bbls. on the boards. The firm is also busy with six ATB tugs.

As with the recent spate of new construction of OSVs, the question is whether this represents an ATB bubble. But the consensus is that the demand for the equipment will be there for some time. There is also some old equipment that needs to be retired.

So, for now, it looks good for companies that operate in the ATB Jones Act market.

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.