Work Boat World editorial - January 2010
As has become customary over the last few years, this, our January issue, presents our choice of the most interesting and impressive vessels we have reviewed during the previous calendar year.
This choice is a very difficult and contentious task. It is fraught with the possibility of offending old friends and regular advertisers.
Nevertheless, we persist. The work boat world is a very competitive and very global one. All of its component shipbuilders – or almost all – are continually striving to design and build better boats.
Obviously, covering, as we do, a wide spread of work boat industry sectors on a global basis, we can and do strive to present a wide spread of different kinds of vessels. This, equally obviously, is not always easy to achieve as quite often one sector will be notably more progressive than any of the others at any one particular time.
We do try – very hard – to be objective. Our most important parameters are innovation, utility, economy, environmental soundness, safety, seaworthiness and appearance. Try applying all those to the more than 170 vessels we reviewed in 2009! It really isn’t easy but we believe that all these innovative and interesting vessels richly deserve their second day in the sun.
That is the painful part of our job. The pleasurable bit is that we get to look again at so many new and different craft. We appreciate anew the talent, inspiration and perspiration that have gone into the design, construction and equipping of these vessels.
Naval architecture, ship building and marine engineering are, in my view, just as much arts as sciences. That certainly is very clearly displayed in most of the boats in our Top Twenty.
New hull shapes, new propulsion systems, new electronics, new equipment, and, even new construction materials all made appearances in 2009. This innovation and artistry all helps to improve the breed.
If you really think about it, work boats are just tools. What is especially interesting and inspiring, though, is that such a significant proportion of them are built as one-offs or, at least, in short runs. Much more inspiring, of course, than aircraft or trucks, for example.
This is where the artistry continues to come into focus. In that sense they are rather more like buildings than machines.
Naturally, the bigger the budget the more likelihood that there will be inspired artistry. The offshore service vessel (OSV) sector, generally, has benefitted from the biggest budgets of late so there, of course, is where most of the more inspiring vessels have been created.
Almost every sector has produced some very impressive vessels. The wider industry will benefit from those. There is quite a lot of cross fertilisation of ideas across the sectors. That improves the breed generally.
So, while you may well disagree with some of our choices for our Top 20, we hope that they will at least make you think. The basic purpose of this magazine is to produce ideas and inspiration of benefit to work boat owners and operators. We trust that our Top 20 vessels of 2009 has again done that.
Like many other interested and involved observers, I was disappointed but not surprised by the effective insolvency of Dubai Inc. that was announced just before I wrote this.
I must admit that although I had been predicting for at least three years that this would be in the inevitable result of the emirate’s crazed, out-of-control development and borrowing, we at Baird Maritime have still been stung by one or two bad debts.
I can only blame my own carelessness. At least we weren’t caught by the similar collapse in Iceland, which I also clearly saw coming.
The coming recovery in Dubai will no doubt be aided by its much richer and more cautious neighbours. Their patience has been sorely tried of late by Dubai’s mad extravagance but they will have little choice but to help.
We should be careful, of course, not to write off the prospects of all the Gulf states on the basis of the profligacy of Dubai. Most of the other states are much more responsibly and sensibly managed. They will survive reasonably prosperously even if they are singed a bit by the Dubai burn out.
The Gulf , generally, still has enormous potential as far as the work boat industry is concerned. The Dubai bust should provide some good opportunities for careful, far-sighted operators with reasonably deep pockets.
Editor in Chief