The U.S. offshore wind industry began 2022 with a bang when the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management (BOEM) scored $4.37 billion from bidders for six wind-energy leases in the New York Bight.

It was the highest-grossing competitive offshore energy lease sale in history, including oil and gas sales, according to the U.S. Department of Interior.

“This week’s offshore wind sale makes one thing clear: the enthusiasm for the clean energy economy is undeniable and it’s here to stay,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in announcing the Feb. 23 auction results.

Some 480,000 acres of ocean leases between New Jersey and Long Island were pared down, a 72% reduction “to avoid conflicts with ocean users and minimize environmental impacts,” according to the BOEM.

The agency says it is evolving that planning methodology as a result of the political battering BOEM took for years from the commercial fishing industry over wind-energy sites off southern New England. 

In the Gulf of Mexico, BOEM engaged with the Southern Shrimp Alliance, menhaden fishermen, and conservation groups to steer clear of fishing areas and migratory bird flyways. At the suggestion of shrimp fishermen, BOEM took a close look at how the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is planning for new Gulf of Mexico aquaculture areas while avoiding future conflicts with other maritime uses.

“We thought it was a really good idea to work on a similar process,” said Michael Celata, BOEM’s Gulf of Mexico regional director, in a meeting on Oct. 3 with the Business Network for Offshore Wind’s Gulf working group.

The Biden administration’s march to establish East Coast wind leases moved south when an auction in the Carolina Long Bay region drew bids from TotalEnergies Renewables USA LLC and Duke Energy Renewables Wind LLC totaling $315 million. Lower prices paid there eased some concern from industry leaders that the New York Bight auction inflated expectations and could hurt the still nascent U.S. industry.

Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, the biggest planned in U.S. waters at $9.8 billion to build out a 2.6-gigawatt turbine array, faced new political challenges. The Virginia State Corporation Commission demanded a performance guarantee for CVOW to protect consumers from footing the bill for higher costs if the turbines don’t perform as well as expected, if energy output falls short of shortfalls a “net capacity factor” of 42% as calculated over a three-year average.

Meanwhile, vessel designers and shipyards pushed forward. Damen Shipyards said it is developing a new class of vessel that will be capable of supporting large-scale, floating offshore wind turbines and their anchoring requirements in deepwater sites off the U.S. West Coast and the Gulf of Maine.

Atlantic Wind Transfers, the first U.S. offshore wind farm support company, has its eye on six 82’ Chartwell Ambitious-class crew transfer vessels (CTVs) designed by UK-based based Chartwell Marine. To be built by St. Johns Ship Building Inc., Palatka, Fla., the first two vessels are to be delivered in the summer of 2023 and January 2024 with the others to follow.

Big boats on the way include a service operations vessel (SOV) contracted by Empire Offshore Wind, a joint venture between Equinor and BP, with Edison Chouest Offshore.

The “plug-in” hybrid SOV will be the first in the U.S. offshore wind sector capable of sailing partly on battery power, operating out of New York.

During construction the Empire Wind projects will depend on a new wind turbine installation vessel to be built in Singapore, teamed with U.S.-built tugs and barges, according to wind developers Equinor and BP, and Maersk Supply Service.

Maersk said it’s been developing a design concept since 2019 with “unique feeder capabilities” to make its wind turbine installation vessel (WTIV) 30% more efficient than using other jack-up vessels.

Until U.S.-flag WTIVs are built, wind developers are expected to rely on the so-called feeder model – using Jones Act-compliant tugs and barges to carry wind turbine components out to foreign-flag installation vessels at sea.

With its improved handling design, the Maersk WTIV may address some of the shortcomings of those tricky transfers at sea of heavy turbine tower parts. 

SembCorp Marine, Singapore, will commence construction with a steel-cutting ceremony set for the fourth quarter, according to Maersk. The vessel’s jacking units, load transfer system, and the crane will be provided by offshore crane manufacturer NOV, while ABS is supporting the design work.

Maersk expects it will deliver the vessel into U.S. waters in 2025. Meanwhile, Jones Act-compliant tugs and barges will be built in the U.S. by Kirby Offshore Wind. — Kirk Moore


Staffing shortages across the U.S. over the past year have exacerbated an already difficult labor market in the maritime sector as operators struggle to fill vacant positions on boats and in offices.

In September, federal figures showed that there were more than 11 million job openings and only six million unemployed workers, a national mismatch that has found maritime employers fiercely competing against each other to recruit, hire and retain their workforce, and having to pay a lot more to do it. The shortage has hit all maritime segments, from inland barging to shipbuilding to passenger vessels.

Knowing that without manpower they can’t run their boats or build them, maritime companies have gone into new territory both geographically and in hiring practices, moving far from their river or coastal bases to reach recruits, employing hiring managers, launching social media campaigns, increasing salaries and benefits, and adding training programs to bring new people onboard quickly and create new career advancement opportunities. Many are also offering signing and retainer bonuses, relaxing pre-employment requirements, reaching out to veterans, and offering jobs on the spot at job fairs.

Help is coming too from the outside, as maritime academies encourage their students to look at other maritime careers beyond big blue-water shipping, and vocational schools, high schools, and community colleges are teaching maritime classes and promoting the industry as a viable and valuable career option.

Hiring challenges have been around for years but worsened during the pandemic, when people received generous government benefits and stayed home, having little incentive to go back to work. In fact, the unemployment rate in the maritime sector throughout the pandemic has been higher than the national unemployment rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The inland industry lost many workers at this time, especially experienced senior mariners who decided to retire. Meanwhile, there are fewer younger people wanting to take their place in the industry. The average age of mariners is currently about 55 years old, which will present continued staffing challenges in the years ahead as these workers retire.

Jennifer Carpenter, president, and CEO of the American Waterways Operators, calls it both a short- and long-term challenge for inland companies. They face the immediate need to hire workers and keep their boats moving, but also the long-term need to attract a generation of younger people to the profession and train them to take jobs into the future.

“It will require a multifaceted approach in the short term and the long term too,” she said, adding that inland companies are concerned not just with hiring workers but with the current high cost of attracting and retaining them and whether this is sustainable for their business. 

The biggest challenge industry experts say is communicating the advantages and good salaries of a waterways job to young people who have little knowledge of the work and little interest in the maritime lifestyle of living in close quarters with others, being away from home for up to a month and working in conditions that can be dangerous, include long days, bad weather, heavy physical demands, and intermittent internet connection. In short, the younger generation seems to value quality of life more than the big bucks when considering a maritime career — especially if they can have both elsewhere.

Another factor affecting hiring and retention are the increasing bureaucratic burdens on mariners that have made obtaining and retaining their licenses more costly and time consuming.

Observers suggest that the industry emphasize career pathways more than a single job, look at ways to team up with environmental organizations to show their green stripes to younger recruits, and emphasize how mariner jobs are part of bigger national economic and security goals, according to Ken Ericksen, a senior vice president at IHS Markit (now part of S&P Global) who follows the maritime industry. Additionally, those workboat companies involved in the emerging wind power industry, he said, should emphasize how young people would be entering an exciting new renewable energy sector that is on the verge of explosive growth. — Pamela Glass


Things are looking up in the U.S. offshore oil and gas sector as it moves to capitalize on an increase in energy prices.

Headwinds persist, however, namely a shortage of suitable vessels and, more notably, the crews to man them, as well as a four-decade-high inflation rate and nagging supply chain issues. 

“There’s stiff competition for Jones Act-qualified mariners right now and I don’t think it’s going to abate,” Richard Sanchez, a senior marine analyst for S&P Global, said in October. “We’ve seen a big reshuffling where people with high skills can pick whatever they want from a range of jobs.”

The problem is particularly glaring in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, where three new oil and gas fields came online this year. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) had earlier predicted nine new fields would deliver first production between 2022 and early 2023. Oil prices, in the meantime, were forecast to return to triple-digits before year-end, driven largely by Saudi Arabia-led OPEC and allied producers’ controversial decision to reduce production beginning in November by roughly two million bbl/d.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) predicts Gulf of Mexico oil production will increase to 1.892 million bbl/d this year, from 1.693 million bbl/d in 2021, but still 88,000 bbl/d less than pre-COVID 2019. Earlier this year, Wood Mackenzie estimated that 2022 would see record Gulf production of 2.3 million bbl/d. Gas production, likewise, is projected to increase to just over 2.34 bcfd and rise steadily to 2031, according to BOEM.

While generally shunning exploration drilling, operators have kept an average of 19 higher-priced deepwater rigs active for most of the year, mainly engaged in development drilling, as companies opt to squeeze more production from existing production assets. Production support has created significant demand for 4,000-6,000-dwt platform support vessels (PSVs), commanding day rates ranging from $35,000 to $45,000/day for charters of six months to a year, said Sanchez. He noted that the spot market for large PSVs is as high as $50,000 to $55,000/day.    

Much of the higher charter rates, however, are being offset by record-high costs, primarily in wages and benefits, as vessel owners are forced to boost compensation to attract and retain qualified mariners. “When you’re talking about the operating costs on a deepwater supply boat, your crew accounts for about 70% of OpEx, so while costs have gone up for maintenance, repair, parts, and support labor, it’s not as significant a dollar amount increase, as it’s a small percentage of the operating costs on a deepwater vessel,” said Matthew Rigdon, vice president and COO of Jackson Offshore Operators LLC, Houston.

He added that labor problems go beyond PSVs and other support vessels. “Our major vendors are having a hard time getting labor as well,” he said. “So, if you can get the parts you need, then it’s a matter of having qualified labor from the vendor to do the work. That’s driving some serious delays in repair work, as well as any more reactivations that may or may not happen in the future.”  

However, few PSVs over 4,000 dwt remain stacked and ready for a return to the Gulf market. A number of large, U.S.-flag vessels also have mobilized overseas, while still others are being incorporated into entirely different industries, most notably the offshore wind sector on the U.S. East Coast.   

Offshore wind developers, likewise, face a dearth of both qualified labor and vessels, especially Jones Act-compliant wind turbine installation vessels (WTIVs). Rising inflation and supply chain challenges are causing would-be WTIV owners to hesitate, according to a Sept. 22 Reuters report.  “We’ve had real conversations, people who were almost signing on the dotted line, but when the tide goes down, people wait to sign the contracts until a later date,” Alberto Morandi, general manager of GustoMSC, Houston, told Reuters. “There’s been a lot of postponement of WTIV projects due to these disruptions.” 

Regardless, a combined 943 MW of incremental offshore wind is on target to begin powering homes and businesses in Massachusetts, New York, and Maine next year, according to the Department of Energy. Vineyard Wind 1 off Massachusetts highlights the three projects expected to come online in 2023. At 800 MW, Vineyard will be the nation’s first commercial-grade offshore wind farm. 

Also scheduled for 2023 start-up are the Ørsted and Eversource South Ford Wind farm (132 MW) off New York and the 11-MW Aqua Ventus pilot project in Maine. Project participants include Cianbro Corp. and the University of Maine.  Jim Redden


Adm. Linda Fagan was sworn in as the 27th commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard on June 1. Adm. Fagan became the first woman, and first mother, to lead any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Adm. Fagan began her 36-year career as a deck watch officer on the Seattle-based heavy icebreaker Polar Star.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, led Adm. Fagan’s nomination hearing in April. “This is a historic moment for our country and for women in the Armed Services,” Cantwell said in her opening statement. “It will be the first time that a woman will lead one of the six branches of the Armed Forces. I am hoping that your leadership will also lead to more progress on getting women recruited and retained in the Coast Guard.”

Adm. Fagan “will inspire generations of American women to strive to serve at the highest level in the Armed Forces,” Cantwell said.

As commandant, Fagan oversees all global Coast Guard operations and 42,000 active-duty, 7,000 reserve, and 8,700 civilian personnel, as well as the support of 21,000 Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteers.

She previously served as the 32nd vice commandant. Prior flag assignments include commander, Pacific Area; commander, Coast Guard Defense Force West; deputy commandant for Operations, Policy, and Capability; commander, First Coast Guard District; and a joint assignment as deputy director of Operations for Headquarters, U.S. Northern Command.   

Adm. Fagan has served on all seven continents. Operational tours include commander, Sector New York, more than 15 years as a marine inspector, and sea duty on the cutter Polar Star, a 399' heavy polar icebreaker.

Adm. Fagan has worked with the International Maritime Organization and International Labor Organization on flag-state and port-state issues. This work includes the development of the International Ship and Port Security Code (ISPS) and the Consolidated Maritime Labor Convention.

“Today, the Coast Guard faces both new challenges and new opportunities. My vision for the service is responsive to this changing world and includes three tenets: transform our total workforce, sharpen our competitive edge, and advance our mission excellence,” Fagan said in a July hearing before the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation & Maritime Security. “The Coast Guard workforce is my highest priority and requires innovative tools, inclusive policies, trustworthy technology, modernized training, and exceptional support to meet demand today and tomorrow.”

Fagan continued: “Moving forward, we will continue to pursue policies and practices that enable us to recruit, train, and retain a workforce representative of the American public we serve. We will build an inclusive culture that enables a sense of belonging, empowering all to deliver their personal best while serving as part of the world’s best Coast Guard.

“We will seek improved opportunities for our workforce and their families to access high-quality healthcare, housing, and childcare. We will remain relentless in our effort to eradicate harmful behaviors, such as sexual assault and sexual harassment, from our service, and continue our work to implement the military justice reforms from the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. We will continue to revisit policies that deter otherwise qualified members from continuing their careers, and instead, we will actively encourage our brightest talent to stay.”

Adm. Fagan has earned numerous personal and team awards during her 37 years of Coast Guard service. She holds the distinction of being the Coast Guard’s first Gold Ancient Trident recipient. Established in 2016, the award honors the officer with the longest time in the marine safety program.

After her confirmation by the Senate as commandant in May, President Joe Biden congratulated Fagan. “My administration is committed to seeing more qualified women in senior leadership and command roles, making sure women can succeed and thrive throughout their military careers,” Biden said.  David Krapf


2019 was a banner year for passenger vessel operators. Then Covid hit. Since then, it’s been a struggle for many companies. 

Before Covid, Seastreak, a New York City-based passenger vessel operator with six vessels, had been transporting 2,500 to 3,000 commuters to work every day from New Jersey to Manhattan. But early in the Covid epidemic the number fell “to about 50 people,” said James Barker, the company’s president, mostly doctors, nurses, and first responders. Because they had to go to New York to treat people, “we decided to offer our service for free” for the first three months of Covid.

Seastreak, like many passenger vessel operators, has compared the passengers carried for a particular day or week to that same day or week in 2019.  In 2020 and 2021 during good times “we were getting back to 30%, 40%, then it would drop with another wave of Covid,” said Barker.

Fuel has been Seastreak’s No. 1 expense. “If it goes up by any amount it hurts our bottom line.” The price paid is about 70% higher than 2019, which has meant using the company’s smaller but equally fast boats to try and reduce fuel expenses.

Covid also forced Seastreak to look for other ways to use its boats. So, Seastreak launched whale-watching tours. “We had over a 90% rate spotting whales from Manhattan,” said Barker. “It’s been a big hit and it’s here to stay.”

In October Barker described the situation as “slow but definitely moving in the right direction. Definitely experienced a surge after Labor Day.” Most of that was probably due to what Barker said was a “surge back in the office for our area,” with office occupancy in New York at 40% to 45% capacity in early October. “Now we are carrying about 70% of what we were carrying in 2019.”

Going forward, Barker is optimistic. “We are clawing our way back, but the future is bright. Looking forward to 2023 as a more normal season.”

Portland Spirit operates five dining and sightseeing boats out of Portland, Ore., as well as cruises along the Columbia River Gorge. Its fleet consists of two 499-passenger vessels, one 144 passenger, and a 120 and 35 passenger.

Some effects of the Covid epidemic lingered through 2022. A reduced labor force was one holdover. In 2019 Portland Spirit had “about 225 employees at our peak,” said Dan Yates, Portland Spirit president, but “couldn’t get above 170 this year. We really struggled to hire.” Thus, the number of cruises was reduced as was the number of passengers on many of the cruises. Vessels often left the dock with only a 40% to 50% passenger load because of the crew shortage. That resulted in focusing only on high-value cruises “and walking away from a lot of low-value events,” such as music cruises and dance cruises.

Even so, Yates said Portland Spirit had not only a solid year in 2022 but “the most successful income year in our 28 years.” Mainly that was because Portland Spirit anticipated higher costs for 2022 and thus “did an aggressive price increase and aggressive demand pricing.” 

That pricing practice will continue in 2023 since Yates “really doesn’t see things improving financially next year.”  

One area that is finally improving is the labor market. “Twenty-five-year-olds can’t retire at 25, normally,” noted Yates, “so they are starting to come back and look at working.” 

In fact, in late August Portland Spirit was able to do something it hasn’t done in a couple of years: let someone go. “We had been so desperate for employees we wouldn’t fire them, no matter how poorly they performed.”

Looking ahead to 2023, Yates feels there will be “a better ability to man up our boats.” Maybe not adding more cruises, but with more crew available he thinks they will be able to carry more passengers on cruises. Currently, vessels leaving the dock this October are capped at 60% capacity. That’s why Portland Spirit has demand pricing “so we can get more revenue out of people to make up for the shortfall of seats.”

Savannah Riverboat Cruises, Savannah, Ga., operates two dinner vessels: a 1,000 passenger and 600 passenger. “2021 and 2022 have been strong for us,” said Capt. Jonathan Claughton, owner of the company. His company is “at or above our 2019 numbers. Pretty much all the market segments are coming back.” 

Claughton said individual leisure travel has done very well over the past 18 months. — Michael Crowley


The towing industry reached a big milestone on July 19 when the long-awaited federal towing vessel inspection program ended its four-year phase-in period with about 5,000 U.S.-flag towing vessels certified as compliant with new safety rules.

Known as Subchapter M, the inspection program sets new requirements for the design, construction, onboard equipment, and operation of U.S-flag towing vessels. It also requires that towing vessels carry valid certificates of inspection (COI) in order to operate. Vessel crews must undergo scheduled training and there’s now a paper trail required for just about everything they do.

This is a major change for this workboat sector, as unlike other commercial vessels, tugs and towboats have operated in U.S. coastal and inland waters with the uninspected tag for decades.

As of July 19, the Coast Guard reported that 96% of the domestic towing fleet that is subject to inspection had received COIs (including temporary ones) since the program’s phase-in period began on July 20, 2018. The Coast Guard issued 774 deficiencies for noncompliance and, as of July 27, 749 towing vessels were in the laid-up status.

With the goal of improving vessel safety, the industry approached Congress and the Coast Guard in 2003 requesting development of a federal inspection program. Over the next two decades, the industry and the Coast Guard worked closely to develop regulations that would enhance safety and environmental stewardship and also be practical on a variety of vessels that operate in different geographic locations and with different cargo requirements.

“Vessel owners have invested millions of dollars and countless hours in equipment, maintenance, and crew training,” Jennifer Carpenter, president, and CEO of the American Waterways Operators (AWO) said in a video marking the end of the phase-in period. “Marine and shoreside personnel have worked tirelessly to implement and upgrade procedures, and the Coast Guard has nearly doubled the number of vessels that its marine inspection workforce oversees.” 

The new rules will now “raise the regulatory floor for the entire industry to better protect the environment and property,” according to the AWO.

Subchapter M gives vessel owners two options to become compliant: an annual safety inspection by the service itself, or through the Coast-Guard-approved Towing Safety Management System (TSMS). Under a TSMS, routine audits and surveys of vessels can be done by Coast Guard-approved third-party organizations that certify that a company’s fleet is in compliance with regulations. This would be done every five years by a certified inspector.

Of vessels inspected during the phase-in period, the Coast Guard said that 67% were certified under the TSMS option, and 33% under the Coast Guard option.

Most inland companies had been prepping for the new inspection program for years and were well prepared. “The Subchapter M program required significant planning and preparation to meet the initial requirements. We had to pull forward significant maintenance investment and liquidate portions of our fleet due to the costly requirements,” said Kyle Buese, president of Campbell Transportation Co., Houston, Pa. “Our planning paid off in that we were able to meet all the initial requirements without any major issue.”

Buese added that their biggest concern going forward is the requirement of five-year internal structural exams (ISE). “Given the limited [shipyard] capacity available, we are planning our shipyard intervals farther in advance. Even with extensive planning, we expect shipyard intervals will take longer due to delays. This will undoubtedly have a negative impact on horsepower availability and utility industrywide.”

The new inspection program marks a cultural change in the towboat and tug industry that is shifting more responsibility from companies to the master of the vessel, according to the Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies (MITAGS), a maritime training school located outside Baltimore. 

“Subchapter M empowers captains to make demands of their company if it means more safe and compliant operation,” MITAGS says. “The rules enable captains to command and manage their inspected vessels in a way that they deem is responsible and safe. This authority granted to captains may come as a small shock to the industry. The Coast Guard inspection will be mostly between the Coast Guard official and the master of the vessel. If you’re a marine company, make sure your captains know about this responsibility so they can thoroughly prepare for inspection.”

MITAGS predicts that the most difficult challenge for towing and tugboat companies may be getting employees to comply with the new standards after they have operated under more relaxed conditions for years. —Pamela Glass


The vast majority of U.S. blue-water and inland port and terminal executives responding to a recent survey said their facilities had been targeted in an attempted or successful cyberattack over the past year.

While 90% of the respondents claimed confidence in their cybersecurity preparedness, 74% admitted systems or data had been put in jeopardy by bad actors, according to the 2022 Ports and Terminals Cybersecurity Survey conducted in May by New Orleans law firm Jones Walker LLP. Of the 125 key executives questioned, 73% said their facilities had a written incident response plan (IRP), but only 21% reported that their plan had been updated over the past year. Fifty percent said IRP tabletop exercises were conducted “irregularly or not at all.”   

“It is concerning to learn that 27%, or more than one-fourth, of all blue-water and brown-water facilities reported that they do not yet address cybersecurity in their facility security plans,” said Jim Kearns, special counsel in Jones Walker’s Maritime Practice Group, one of the firm’s four attorneys that authored the report released in October. “For ports and terminals to be cybersecure – not just ‘cyberaware’ — it’s critical that they have up-to-date plans, train their people, and communicate effectively both internally and with others in their industry.”

Notably, of those targeted in a cyberattack, only 40% engaged law enforcement in the post-breach investigation, while an even smaller percentage made any additional external disclosures of the breach. However, as the authors suggest, marine facilities must be aware of their potential liability under the Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act (CIRCIA). The act, adopted in March, requires the 16 critical infrastructures under the umbrella of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to promptly report cyber incidents and ransomware payments.

“As an association dedicated to fostering mutual support among our members, we were concerned to learn from the Jones Walker survey that only 25% of the respondents still do not collaborate with others in the industry to improve cybersecurity efforts,” said Aimee Andres, executive director of Inland Rivers, Ports, and Terminals (IRPT), Alton, Ill. “It seems so obvious that one way to thwart cyberattacks is to share best practices and to collaborate with each other across our industry.”

The critical operation technology (OT) networks of ports and terminals are particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks. The International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) said cyberbreaches against OT systems increased a staggering 900% from 2017 to 2020. 

“A company’s private or secure information are the crown jewels they want to protect and that’s on the IT side of the network,” said Dennis Hackney, solutions development director of industrial cybersecurity for the ABS Group. “The OT side of the network is the core or base business of the organization from the liquids you transfer right down to the elevators in an office building that keep people safe.”

With increased digitalization and remote operations, IT and OT networks are interconnected often through the internet, increasing the risks. “Threat actors find their way into IT networks where they explore to see what is connected, which all-too-often leads them into the OT network,” Hackney said in October during an ABS Group cybersecurity webinars. 

Another key takeaway from the Jones Walker survey found that only 57% of blue-water respondents and 25% of brownwater respondents met the industry standard for the frequency of cybersecurity training. 

The latest cybersecurity study follows a similar Jones Walker survey in 2018 focusing on the greater maritime industry and another in 2020 that examined the midstream (transportation, storage, and trading of crude oil, natural gas, and refined products) sector. “What’s most surprising is that despite 90% of respondents reporting they’re prepared to withstand cybersecurity threats in 2022, this year’s survey uncovered a significant increase from 2018 in terms of reported cyberattacks amongst maritime industry stakeholders – from 43% in 2018 to 74% in 2022,” said co-author Ford Wogan, a partner in Jones Walker’s Maritime Practice Group. —Jim Redden


Cummins Inc. has a new slogan: Destination Zero. As in emissions. No particulates, neither SOx nor NOx. No CO2. Zero all around. 

Why? “Because climate change is the existential question of our times,” said Tom Linebarger, Cummins chairman of the board. “We have to take action. Destination Zero is a strategy to a decarbonized world.”

Coming from the top executive of a company that has thrived on building diesel engines, that’s saying a lot. Tony Thomas, a Cummins marine account executive, told panel attendees at October’s Interferry conference in Seattle that the company used to brag that it was the largest independent diesel engine manufacturer in the world. “Now Cummins will take even greater pride in minimizing diesel as the propellant for our engines,” he said. “Cummins is increasingly using the term ICE, meaning internal combustion engine, not necessarily diesel.”

Cummins is also increasingly invested in hydrogen technology. “It’s coming,” said Thomas. “Hydrogen as a marine fuel is coming, so get your head around it. It’s going to be part of your future.”

Cummins is the supplier of the hydrogen fuel cells that power the 78-passenger Sea Change, the world’s first hydrogen-powered commercial ferry, and one of WorkBoat’s 10 Significant Boats of 2021. The 73'×24' aluminum catamaran is powered exclusively with electricity from hydrogen fuel cells and two banks of lithium batteries. There is no backup/emergency, fossil-fuel-burning generator.

After final construction at All American Marine and approval from the Coast Guard earlier this year, the Sea Change was barged to San Francisco, where it has waited to go into service. 

The San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority, which operates San Francisco’s ferries, said it will operate the boat on the San Francisco waterfront as a demonstrator. “We’ll learn a lot,” said WETA CEO Seamus Murphy. “The vessel doesn’t meet the demands of our current system, but it’s essential that we play a leadership role and demonstrate to the public and to the policymakers that this technology works, and we need to move forward aggressively in adopting it.”

When Murphy said the Sea Change doesn’t meet WETA’s vessel demands, he referred, in part, to vessel speed. Speaking on the same Interferry panel with Murphy, All American Marine’s business development manager Terry Federer said the cat has an 11-knot cruise speed and a battery-boosted top speed of 13.5 knots. WETA likes double or triple that speed, especially for its long-haul routes. Even so, Murphy said, “We know that hydrogen has a lot of potential for achieving our zero-emission service on long-haul routes.”

Murphy also announced at Interferry that WETA is in the market for three more boats: all zero emissions with 100-150 passenger capacities. A request for information (RFI) has been officially issued.

The Destination Zero slogan has also been adopted by a Swedish ferry operator, Gotland Company, which operates large ropax vessels between Gotland Island in the Baltic Sea and the southeastern Swedish mainland. And the fuel for getting to that destination is also hydrogen.

Gotland will not be using hydrogen for fuel cells, however. Instead, it will be injected into and burned by gas turbines.  Bruce Buls


In October, MetalCraft Marine, Kingston, Ontario, began bidding on four autonomous boats. Three for the military and one for a defense contractor.

MetalCraft Marine’s Bob Clark can’t say where the boats are going or very much about the design itself other than “they came to us because of the Watcher program.” 

The Watcher, a 23'×8'6" aluminum RIB patrol and survey boat that was leased to the Coast Guard for nearly a year in 2020 (See WorkBoat June 2021, pg. 24), was MetalCraft Marine’s first autonomous vessel. It was outfitted with Spatial Integrated Systems autonomy electronics. However, the boats for the military will be larger than the Watcher. “They want a bigger platform,” said Clark, less than 50'. Clark also doesn’t know what form of autonomous electronics are going in the boats. “In each case they are supplying their own autonomous electronics. They want their own encrypted electronics.”

Of course, a main selling point for an autonomously operated vessel is that its integrated control systems and sensors make the boat more efficient and safer (no helmsman being distracted or falling asleep) and less likely to be involved in accidents. That said, the operator of an autonomously controlled vessel — be it a military or commercial boat — who is just learning the system, is bound to be a bit nervous and unsure of himself.

Even if operators have spent years operating traditionally navigated and controlled vessels, when it comes to planning and navigating an autonomous voyage, essentially they are “greenhorns.” 

That’s what brought the University of Southern Mississippi’s Roger F. Wicker Center for Ocean Enterprise in Gulfport and Sea Machines Robotics in Boston together to create USM’s Maritime Autonomy Operational Seminar.

 “I don’t know of anyone else doing this. We think this is kind of a blueprint that can be done nationally,” said Dr. Jason McKenna, director of research, development, testing, evaluation, and training at the Roger F. Wicker Center for Ocean Enterprise. 

The Autonomy Operational Seminar, which was scheduled to hold its first class by the first week in November, is basically a two-day class that utilizes Sea-Machines Robotics SM200 and SM300 autonomous self-pilots with Sea-Machines AI-ris computer vision to guide USM’s 49' Ken Barbor, an ex-patrol boat built by Silver Ships that’s capable of fully autonomous operations.

The idea, McKenna said, is to help people “develop a trust in maritime autonomy. Get real comfortable with levels of autonomy that are available now. Get folks trusting that autonomy and navigating in waters that previously had not had any uncrewed vessels running around.” 

The two-day Autonomy Operational Seminar consists of one eight-hour online session and a one-day in-person training seminar. The online session features videos and PowerPoint presentations to “bring them up to speed,” McKenna said, on the autonomous system and optionally crewed vessels.

Then the students show up at the USM marine research center in Gulfport for the one-day training seminar, and “getting hands-on classes using software to control a boat remotely.” 

McKenna realizes that the two-day course is not going to produce an expert in autonomy. “We think we can get people comfortable with the idea of maritime autonomy in that seminar. Not be expert pilots but get a feeling how the boat reacts.” Michael Crowley


Each year death claims its share of notable workboat veterans. Among those who passed away in 2022:

Norman McCall died in October at 98. In 1966, he formed his own boat company, Cameron Crew Boats Inc., Cameron, La. By 1996, his companies owned and operated 42 crew-supply vessels. That same year, he merged the family-owned companies with Seacor Marine, becoming the crewboat arm of Seacor in the Gulf of Mexico.

McCall was the builder of the first four-engine crewboat in 1970, the first five-engine crewboat in 1984, and the first six-engine crewboat in 1989. He was also influential in the delivering the first 185' crewboat in the world as well as the first catamaran crew-supply vessel. McCall a World War II veteran, began his career as a deckhand in the offshore oil industry in 1946. 

Robert Paul Hill, 69, died July 14. Born in Troy, N.Y., in 1952, he relocated to Bellingham, Mass., where he lived for nearly 50 years, to pursue a career in marine architecture and engineering.

An accomplished naval architect, marine engineer, and father of the articulated tug/barge (ATB) unit, Hill was founder and president of Ocean Tug & Barge Engineering, based in Milford, Mass. For his lifetime achievement in the industry, he was named a distinguished Fellow of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) in 2015. 

“In our industry, you think of successful thinkers and there would be Robert Allan, Bob Hill, Ed Shearer,” said CT Marine’s Corning Townsend, whose name should also be on that list. “He was a leader of a whole new concept — articulated tug and barge.”

John L. “Johnny” Bludworth III passed away at his home in Hockley, Texas, on May 15. He was 79. 

Bludworth spent his life carrying on the legacy of his father and grandfather in the boatbuilding and repair business. He owned and operated successful shipyards along the Texas Gulf Coast. 

He started in 1955 working summers for his dad and uncles as a helper at Bludworth Shipyard in Houston. He went on to start John Bludworth Marine Inc. in Pasadena, Texas, in 1975. He also helped his father start a shipyard in Corpus Christi, Texas, and eventually purchased the yard in 1989. The Corpus Christi yard, now John Bludworth Shipyard LLC, is still operating today.  Ken Hocke

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