We are all familiar with the current state of the OSV market: It’s competitive, rates and utilization are down, and there are scores of stacked vessels. It’s the latter that has Anil Raj, owner of Technology Associates Inc. in New Orleans, and some other designers intrigued.

At the WorkBoat OSV Summit held in Houston earlier this month, Raj said, “Good OSV designers keep this cyclical nature of the business in consideration.” Raj said that OSV operators have few good options for stacked vessels during down cycles. They can wait it out until rates improve, merge or sell out, seek alternate markets, or divest.

But there is hope, he said.

Water transportation is still the most cost effective and environmentally friendly mode on a dollar-per-ton basis. Also, a recession in one marine sector or area of the world does not always mean it is the same elsewhere. And, workboats are mobile.

Raj referred to a paper he presented almost 30 years ago, during the '80s offshore downturn. In it, he offered several alternative uses for OSVs. While most of the options would be one-offs, he said that just thinking out of the box is better than doing nothing.

Some of the possible options for OSVs include converting them to cruise vessels, ferries, seafood processors, military boats, excursion vessels, a yacht escort vessel, short-sea container vessels, etc. One interesting idea would be converting an OSV into a boat/yacht transport vessel. Currently, there are no Jones Act vessels of this type available for owners that want to move their yachts from U.S. port to U.S. port. For example, the yachts must first go to Mexico and be reloaded before heading to the next U.S. port.

Of course, the best solution would be having most of these boats going back to work in the oil patch.

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.