Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Top 10 Stories of 2010

Once again, WorkBoat has published its list of the "Top 10 News Stories of 2010." Without a doubt the top maritime story of the year was the Deepwater Horizon explosion, sinking, and oil spill, a fact reflected in both WorkBoat's list and in coverage by the mainstream media. Many other stories on WorkBoat's list are continuations of trends from 2009, like green boats and industry bankruptcies. Many received little, if any coverage in mainstream media.

Deepwater Horizon Fallout Continues. The Associated Press's annual poll of mainstream US editors and news directors ranked this story the biggest of the year. CBS News's 60 Minutes won an Alfred I duPont-Columbia University Award for its two-part investigation of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The disaster was covered by news organizations worldwide and its aftermath continues to make the news pages, as well of those of WorkBoat and other trade publications. One place many in the mainstream media got it wrong was the effect of the Jones Act in response efforts.

Drilling Moratorium Halts Work In The Gulf. Candidate Barack Obama's call to open up more drilling on the US continental shelf was in sharp contrast to his halt of all drilling while the Deepwater Horizon disaster continued. The moratorium delivered a double-whammy to an oil-dependent Gulf coast already reeling from the economic fallout from the incident. Restrictions loosened toward the end of the year, but small operators and individual mariners were hard-hit. Once again, this was and continues to be a major story throughout the media.

Sluggish Year For Boatbuilders. A still-struggling economy forced many boat- and shipyards to scale back production and new orders -- even those from the Navy and other government sources -- were slow coming in. Many yards chose to make lemonade and took advantage of the downtime to re-toll and upgrade, often using federal stimulus money. Good coverage from the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the Business of Boating blog at ThreeSheets Northwest.

Recession Hits Workboat Industry. WorkBoat tried to put the best spin possible on this, pointing out companies that experienced growth during the year. The magazine's own index of marine-related stocks is poised to finish the year up more than 20-percent over the course of 2010, which includes a significant dip around the time of the Deepwater Horizon incident.
The Tacoma News-Tribune was one of the few mainstream outlets to touch on the recession's effect on the workboat industry, though there were several outlets that mentioned the slowdown in yacht and recreational boatbuilding.

Asian Carp Battle Continues. This may be the non-Deepwater story that got the most mainstream coverage this year. Two species of Asian carp, escaped from pens on the lower Mississippi river, have been spreading up the river and now threaten to move in to the Great Lakes. Michigan and other states have moved to close off the locks and canals built to link the waterway two systems, citing the threat the fish pose to native fish, and thus fishing and tourism industries. On the other side are barge, passenger vessel, and agricultural industries that rely on the locks linking the river system and lakes. The dispute is currently in federal court.

Duck Boat Company To Resume Service After Accident. A duck tour boat anchored in the Delaware River was struck by a tug, killing two people and injuring ten others. A final determination of blame is still in the works, but initial findings point to the crew of the tug, which ignored radio calls from the duck boat and other vessels. On the other hand, duck boats have had a number of problems over the last decades, leading to increased safety requirements and continued concerns. The Philadelphia-area media covered this extensively.

Inland Waterways Capital Plan In Limbo. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Inland Waterways Users Board came up with a proposal to improve and enhance the nation's waterways infrastructure. Many locks, dams and other structures are decades old and some deferred maintenance lists are years long.. The $7.6-billion plan would would be funded over the next twenty years by higher fuel taxes paid by users or fees for lock usage. With the change in management in the House of Representatives, the proposal may face significant opposition. Not much coverage in the mainstream media.

Card Readers Are Final Hurdle For TWIC. Now that most mariners have TWIC in hand, what do we do with them? The card readers meant to read them are now not required until late 2011, but even then many maritime industry sources that have said the "readers do little to improve security, are duplicative of existing security checks, and are impractical and unnecessary on vessels with small crews," according to WorkBoat. There was little about TWIC cards in the mainstream press. In fact, there were many reports in trade publications that TSA employees at some airports did not recognize the cards, despite that they were issued by their own executive department (Homeland Security) and were listed on TSA's own website as an accepted form of ID.

Brisk Pace For Acquisitions And Bankruptcies. The consolidation that goes on in hard economic times continued. BusinessWeek covered several of the larger mergers (such as the sale of Gulf of Mexico shipyard Bender Shipbuilding). Local media covered individual events affecting their locales as part of larger business coverage, but few touched on the larger national trend in the industry.

Getting Greener All The Time. Hybrid vessels, such as Foss's Carolyn Dorothy, are the next big thing, reducing both fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Other companies are using other technologies to reduce emissions. In a year in which a maritime story was synonymous environmental disaster, Reuters gave good coverage to the Foss story, as did local papers in places like Long Beach and Seattle.

For WorkBoat's complete article, click here.

For my post last year on the top stories of 2009, click here.

For my post on the Jones Act and Deepwater Horizon response efforts, click here.

For more on the legal fallout from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, see my post here.

1 comment:

  1. I actually happened across your blog while looking up mercy ships (I actually posted a comment to THAT blog entry before I saw the date on it); my name is Dr. Ben La Brot of the Floating Doctors. We are another 501c3 all-volunteer non-profit (no salaries here) medical relief team working from our 76' 77-ton ship Southern Wind. We worked in Petit-Goave, Haiti for 2.5 months this spring, then transited to Roatan, Honduras where we have been working in health centers opening a clinic, and doing mobile clinics with Southern Wind. We are getting set to head back to Haiti in late January to deliver IV fluids, medical supplies, water treatment systems and medical personnel to a string of clinics along the north coast, west of Cap Haitian--one other increasing trend in boating this year (the use of private yachts or ships to carry relief supplies or do aid work).

    Any info, suggestions, comments, or helping us put the word out would be a great help. Please visit our website for blogs, pics, and more about us.

    We are not affiliated with any specific religion, but we welcome help from all quarters. Here are the links to a couple of short videos we have made.

    If anyone would like to support our mission to Haiti, or can help connect us with more support in country (we are working with Partners in Health, Direct Relief International, and the Cap Haitian Health Network on our upcoming trip), please contact us directly at

    Fair Winds, y Prospero Ano Nuevo de la costa de Honduras...

    Dr. Ben La Brot
    President of Floating Doctors
    "The cure for everything is salt water...sweat, tears, or the sea." --Isaak Densen