Marine News: Editor's Note

By Joseph Keefe

Our annual shipyard report comes at an appropriate, yet uncertain time for the industry. The future direction of the oil and gas markets will, to a large extent, also determine the course for domestic boat builders. That’s because the sustained rally seen in this sector over the course of the last 3 to 5 years came to be thanks to the so-called domestic energy boom. Nevertheless, there are reasons for optimism despite the lowest rig count since March of 2011.
Thankfully, there are other reasons for shipyards to stay busy in the coming months. For example, the looming so-called subchapter M towboat rules will likely unleash a flurry of inland repair and newbuild activity. As many as 4,000 hulls will be impacted and not all are active in the American Waterways Operators’ (AWO) Responsible Carrier Program. Within this edition, AWO’s Jennifer Carpenter explains why inland stakeholders are so adamant that these rules come to pass.
Other sectors – blue water for the most part – are pushing containerships, ConRo newbuilds and Jones Act tankers out as fast as they can. That also keeps yards busy but also addresses the quickly changing environmental landscape for marine vessels that creates the need for new tonnage in the first place. As more operators choose the LNG and/or dual fuel route, so too increases the need for infrastructure to support efficient bunkering solutions. For that reason, Bob Kunkel’s description of the revolutionary new build LNG bunker barge that will soon come to reality in Conrad’s Gulf Coast Shipyard will be of special interest. That story begins on page 42.
The domestic workboat sector also has distinguished itself in recent years by creating and growing a highly competitive niche business of exporting U.S. hulls to foreign governments and municipalities. In fact, for certain size and type vessels, U.S. yards have few peers in terms of price, quality and innovation. Technology and innovation, however, flow in both directions. In this edition, Susan Buchanan outlines the unique licensing agreements in place between Netherlands-based Damen Shipyards and as many as seven American boat builders. It turns out that Damen hull designs are much coveted for their proven performance, durability and customizable utility. The deal(s) arguably signal a true ‘win-win’ for all parties. Turn to page 36 and find out why.
Understandably lost amidst the scurry for improved environmental performance or, perhaps, the laundry list of tasks promised by subchapter M, is the growing passion for crew amenities amongst operators who look to upgrade the conditions under which their mariners toil underway. Secure in the knowledge that the United States will likely never ratify the new Maritime Labor Convention (MLC 2006), some U.S. operators are forging ahead anyways. Shane Guidry’s Harvey Gulf International Marine group is one of them. It’s a terrific story that you’ll read nowhere else, and it goes to the heart of what shipbuilding should be all about. It might just be my favorite feature of the year. See if it is not yours, as well.


(As published in the April 2015 edition of Marine News - http://magazines.marinelink.com/Magazines/MaritimeNews)

 

Marine News Magazine, page 6,  Apr 2015

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MarineNews is the information source for the North American inland, offshore and coastal maritime community.