Work Boat World – April 2012
Over the past six months I have spent a lot of time in South East Asia. Obviously that region is very important to this magazine and to two of our major exhibitions Asian Work Boat and China Maritime.
That enabled me to talk with many hundreds of maritime industry participants in the area. In particular I talk more regularly and at length with the carefully chosen members of our Honorary Boards of Advice in both Singapore and Hong Kong.
Those people range across vessel owners, operators, designers and builders as well as government, Industry associations and suppliers. A really good cross-section of our industry.
Obviously, some are more positive than others, depending on the sector they operate in! Equally obviously, OSV and tug/barge operators and builders are much more sanguine about their short-term prospects than are their counterparts in ferries, for example.
As a general overview, though, the majority of people who I meet who live and work in the region, are positive about their prospects in both the short and longer terms. While pirates run amok, the oil price stays at over USD 80 per barrel and the Chinese GDP grows at six plus percent per-annum, everything in the work boat industry garden remains rosy.
All of these conditions seem likely to be met for the foreseeable future so we should be reasonably safe indefinitely.
Of course, one of the biggest problems being faced by the south east Asians is the negativity and despair of their friends, contacts and colleagues in Europe and, to a lesser extent, north America. The Asians find it difficult and depressing trying to point out the excellent opportunities in the region to their European and American counterparts.
We, too, have shared that problem. Our Asian exhibitions have been much harder to sell than usual thanks to that European negativity. It is still difficult to persuade many European suppliers that there are still many really good opportunities in Asia – despite the gloom and doom spouted in the general media.
The fact is, as any regular reader of this publication will have noticed, that there is still an enormous amount happening in the work boat industry in areas outside Europe and north America.
Another important factor that should be borne in mind by European suppliers of designs and equipment is that the local industry is steadily being “Asianised”.
Non-Asians who fail to move quickly are liable to miss out on this enormous and fast growing market if they do not move into it quickly.
Asian ship designers, for example, are winning a rapidly increasing share of the work that was once dominated by outsiders. The same applies to engine manufacturers and equipment suppliers. Just look at the specifications lists in the vessel reviews published in this magazine.
South East Asia is, indeed, a sea of work boat opportunity but you cannot metaphorically fish in it without diving into it. You have to spend time and money there getting to know the market.
As reported in this issue, our recent China Maritime event in Hong Kong
attracted small but very high quality crowds of visitors and exhibitors. Of particular importance were the large number of associated conferences and seminars that were very well attended.
Our next event, which is Asian Work Boat 2013, will be held in Singapore as usual at the end of February. It is normally a much bigger event than China Maritime. We are working hard to encourage a similar range of excellent conferences and seminars to be organised alongside it as at China Maritime.
All indications are that it will be bigger and better than ever. This, again, is a reflection of the general high level of work boat activity in the region at present. It provides outsiders with a good window into the local industry as well as being a great marketing and networking venue for local operators and suppliers.
We are, of course, all interested in the wider world but the current hotspots of work boat activity are all outside the traditional markets of Europe and north America. None of us can afford to neglect south east Asia.