If you watch the news, or better yet drive a car, you may have noticed lately that the price of fuel has dropped in the last six months. By drop I mean plummeted, with Brent Crude and West Texas Intermediate down to under $60 a barrel from over $100 just six months ago. For the producers and consumers this is great news. When energy is cheap it means things are cheaper to make, cheaper to ship, and consumers have more money in their pocket to spend.
However for people in my line of work, that is Oil and Gas production, the drastic slide in prices is the beginning of another batch of bad times for the industry. The oil industry goes in cycles with supply and demand as anyone from a company exec to the roughneck with no high school diploma can tell you. When demand is up and prices are high things get very good for everyone. New equipment is ordered, day rates for everything and everyone soars.
Though when the bottom drops out, it is for a lot of people like getting pushed off a cliff. This whole business is a gamble, and many of the major players would probably fit right in at a high stakes poker table. If you put yourself out there you can gain a lot in a short amount of time during the up cycles, it’s just when the down turn comes you better be ready for it.
For many of the smaller operators and even some of the bigger ones in the boat business this will be a very trying year or more while waiting for the rebound. Already many companies, and their mariner’s are feeling the squeeze. Several of the larger companies have announced pay and benefit cuts, cut peoples time at work and more. For the small companies, particularly those competing in the declining shelf market, even this temporary down turn might be a killer blow.
What does this mean for me? For one I’ve shook some trees in the tug and barge side of things to get an idea on making a transition back if need be. One of the reasons I work on Jaguar at home is to keep my towing license up, because having the ability to work on tugs as well is a lot like a SOLAS rated life raft for me. It takes some effort keep in usable condition, but it could save my bacon!
Diversity is certainly a good thing at times. There is a quote I have always liked about staying diverse in your skill set as a person:
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
-Robert A. Heinlein
While I have always liked that quote, it has definitely hit home for me in the recent months. I might not have much experience in life outside of running and maintaining boats, but at least I can run and maintain a few of different types of boats! Regardless of the price of oil or being on supply boats or tugs at the end of the day all you can do is continue to do your job to the best of your abilities, and not be the low hanging fruit. Boats are still working, and the paperwork still needs to be filed, the helm manned.
Just last week we had a couple day charter doing a deck load run for Heerema, taking groceries and assorted containers to their DP crane rig the Balder. This is a very cool rig built for heavy deep water construction and pipe laying. For its full specs check out Heerema’s website here. For some immediate satisfaction of your curiosity here are a couple photos.