The image of a fun-loving boat full of passengers in Hawaii may provide the slightest bit of wintertime relief for those of us snowbound in the Northeast U.S., but it also could be be seen as a harbinger for good times to come in the passenger vessel sector of the marine market.
The spectre of a robust passenger vessel market — particularly for fast craft — has loomed on the yearly planning agenda of nearly every marine related company for many years. The anticipated “boom”, as we like to call them, has yet to fully materialize, but the prospect of increased ferry utilization and activity in North America continues to grow.
Giving credence to this possibility are developments in the Gulf of Mexico region, which now is playing host to two of the world’s most prolific builders of fast craft, Austal Ships and Incat, both hailing from Australia. Austal Ships efforts, with Bender Shipbuilding, to construct a new shipyard in Mobile, Ala., thus combining the construction prowess and proven designs of Austal with the state of the art steel processing facilities at Bender and the enormity of the U.S. market is a sure sign that good times are just ahead. To confirm that, it was announced in early December that Incat and Bollinger Shipyards — one of the most dominant boatbuilding power in the GOM today — had signed an agreement for Bollinger to market and build high speed craft to the Incat design.
To those in the industry who may still harbor fears of change, the message is abundantly clear: get over and jump on for the ride. The business of continuing consolidation has been firmly embraced and incorporated into the maritime market. The trend towards bigger is better is clearly cyclical and could reverse at any given moment, but the run towards consolidated R&D, products, systems, has been firmly entrenched for more than seven years and current signs are that it will continue. The challenge, as always, is to develop, manufacture, install and service superior solutions for vessels both large and small, far and near.