Is the number of marine assistance calls an indicator of the health of the marine industry? If it is, then the future for marine businesses looks to make an upturn. According to the marine assistance company SeaTow, calls for assistance and tows increased by 19% during the recently completed July 4th holiday weekend when compared to last year. Or does the increase in calls result more from cash-squeezed boaters going out in older, less well maintaned vessels? What do you thnk?
From the press release: Sea Tow Services International Inc., the world’s largest and only international marine assistance organization, reported a 19-percent increase in marine assistance calls during the four-day Fourth of July holiday weekend compared to the same period in 2009. This increase in activity, seen for the second year in a row, was due largely to excessive heat blanketing much of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast that sent boaters flocking to the water. However, combined with Sea Tow’s strong Memorial Day statistics, it also points to a possible long-awaited rise in boating participation, which could bode well for the struggling marine industry. Sea Tow also reported a nine-percent increase in membership sales in the week leading up to this Fourth of July.
“With extraordinarily hot weather along much of the Eastern seaboard, boaters certainly seemed eager to seek refuge on the water,” said Capt. Joe Frohnhoefer, Sea Tow’s Founder & CEO. “This kept our franchisees very busy over the four-day weekend. Thankfully, this weekend appears to have been a relatively safe one, despite the increase in on-water traffic.”
More than 1,000 service calls were reported by 77 percent of Sea Tow’s 98 franchise locations nationwide who were surveyed for this annual Fourth of July report. Of that total, they responded to:
* 789 tows
* 95 ungroundings
* 76 fuel drop requests
* 91 jump starts
* 45 salvages
* 5 maydays
* 2 U.S. Coast Guard MARBS (Marine Assistance Request Broadcasts)
* 18 percent fewer night calls than in 2009
Sea Tow Freeport (N.Y.), Sea Tow Atlantic City (N.J.), Sea Tow Charleston (S.C.), Sea Tow Southern Connecticut and Sea Tow Great South Bay (N.Y.) reported the highest activity levels in the network. Sea Tow captains also responded to at least nine boating accidents this weekend.
One such incident occurred in the Boston area when the M/V Massachusetts, an 87-foot whale-watching boat, began sinking with more than 168 passengers and six crew onboard after striking submerged glacial rocks known locally as Devil’s Back. The vessel hit the rocks after leaving the marked shipping channel, the reasons for which are under investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard. Captains from Sea Tow Boston worked with the U.S. Coast Guard, local officials and fellow towboat operators to ensure that everyone aboard was safely evacuated. They then worked to patch the hull of the aluminum boat, de-water it, and return it to port.
Sea Tow’s franchise network employed more than 775 staffers and had nearly 500 boats on patrol that burned more than 14,000 gallons of fuel while assisting boaters in need throughout the four-day weekend. Numerous man-hours also were volunteered by Sea Tow locations nationwide as they sent boats and captains to assist with local fireworks celebrations.
“We are happy to see boaters getting out there and enjoying boating in a way that’s safe. We hope the good weather continues and boaters are able to take advantage of all the great things offered by waterfront communities nationwide,” Frohnhoefer said. “We are glad our Sea Tow operators are available to help when needed, but as always, we encourage boaters to remain vigilant and follow all safety precautions.
NOTE: The results of this year’s statistical analysis include the national Sea Tow network’s activity level from Friday, July 2 through Monday, July 5, 2010 with 77 percent of the network reporting. In 2009, 80 percent of the network reported survey data.