Marine Support Services

Industry Profile Report

Dive Deep into the industry with a 25+ page industry report (pdf format) including the following chapters

Industry Overview Current Conditions, Industry Structure, How Firms Operate, Industry Trends, Credit Underwriting & Risks, and Industry Forecast.

Call Preparation Call Prep Questions, Industry Terms, and Weblinks.

Financial Insights Working Capital, Capital Financing, Business Valuation, and Financial Benchmarks.

Industry Profile Excerpts

Industry Overview

The 2,000 marine support services firms in the US include companies that operate ports, harbors, and canals, as well as companies that provide marine cargo handling and storage services. The industry also includes companies providing navigational services, such as piloting or tugboat services, and marine salvaging services.

Dependence on International Trade

Revenue for marine support services is driven by US imports and exports, which in turn depend on global economic conditions and international trade agreements.

Automation of Operations

As cargo volumes increase and ships get larger, marine terminal operators face challenges in quickly loading and unloading cargo to avoid congestion and delays for shippers, truckers and railcar operators.

Industry size & Structure

The average marine support services company operates out of a single location, employs 47-48 workers, and generates $11-12 million annually.

    • The marine support services industry consists of about 2,000 firms employing 96,000 workers and generating around $22.6 billion annually.
    • About 360 commercial ports in the US and its territories handle 2-3 billion gross tons of cargo annually.
    • About 41% of industry establishments provide navigation services, while 13% provide marine cargo handling services and 13% provide port operations services.
    • The top US ports, based on volume of twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) handled include Houston, New York/New Jersey, New Orleans, Long Beach, Port of Virginia, Charleston, Miami, Seattle, and Los Angeles.
    • The industry is concentrated, with the 50 largest firms accounting for 67% of industry revenue.
    • Large companies include Ports America, APM Terminals (headquartered in the Netherlands), and SSA Marine.
                              Industry Forecast
                              Marine Support Services Industry Growth
                              Source: Vertical IQ and Inforum

                              Recent Developments

                              Mar 19, 2024 - Firms Increase Prices
                              • Marine support services moderately increased their prices during 2023, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Industry employment decreased moderately during 2023, according to the BLS. Marine support service industry sales are forecast to increase at a 4.94% compounded annual rate from 2022 to 2027, faster than the growth of the overall economy, according to Inforum and the Interindustry Economic Research Fund, Inc.
                              • Some marine support services firms are investing in vessels to support US offshore wind development. Northstar Marine Services, for example, acquired the 265-ft anchor-handling OSV, the Northstar Navigator, and the 208-foot purpose-built spill response vessel, the Northstar Responder. These vessels will be used to support upcoming offshore wind work and a wide variety of other marine projects in the northeast United States, according to company officials. The Northstar Navigator can provide a range of services needed to support offshore wind facilities, including anchor handling, towing, a precision lightweight GPS receiver, bubble curtains, and survey support. The Northstar Responder will be used for offshore wind survey and support.
                              • Attacks on cargo ships in the Red Sea and drought affecting the Panama Canal have created a “perfect storm” of disruption in global shipping, according to Mike Giambrone, an account executive at logistics provider OEC Group. The Red Sea is a critical shipping lane for cargo traveling through the Suez Canal, which accounts for about 12% of global trade, according to Giambrone. Approximately 30% of global container traffic traverses the Suez Canal, transporting $1 trillion of goods per year, according to the Government of New Zealand. Drought conditions in the Panama Canal, worsened by a severe El Nino, have severely impacted container ship traffic through that key trade route. October 2023 marked the driest October on record for the Canal watershed, according to the Panama Canal Authority, and officials have cut the number of transits. The Panama Canal accounts for about 7% of global seaborne trade, according to the Wall Street Journal. “It’s really the East Coast and Gulf Coast markets that are going to see the results of this,” Giambrone said. He noted that when there’s a problem on the East Coast, shippers can transfer their capacity to the West Coast, but this can bring additional problems. Giambrone cited the post-COVID shipping surge that resulted in “a parking lot of container ships” at West Coast ports in 2021. Some ships were diverted to the East Coast to ease the congestion. “Then the East Coast started having serious congestion.”
                              • World trade in goods is likely to slow more in 2023 than previously expected, according to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Slowing demand in the West and China's economic struggles, driven largely by increasing bad debt levels related mostly to the real estate sector and to continuance of its Zero COVID policy, are weighing on imports and exports. The WTO lowered its forecast for global economic growth in 2023 to 2.3% from 3.3% and warned of an even steeper drop if central banks raise their key interest rates more than expected. A United Nations agency said in early October that raising interest rates to fight inflation could inflict worse damage globally than the financial crisis in 2008 and the COVID-19 shock in 2020. The WTO also noted several long-term trends affecting international trade, including de-globalization — a reversal of decades of ever-closer economic integration, that accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic.
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