Pandemic delivers economic blow

Few maritime companies have been spared from the effects of COVID-19, and Vinik Marine is no exception. The threat of contracting the coronavirus, combined with the economic downturn and its impact on petroleum consumption, has hit the New Jersey company hard.

“First, it’s scary on a personal level,” said company owner Capt. Mike Vinik. “I don’t want my crews to get infected. I don’t want my family infected. Crew change is complicated; mariners have to quarantine themselves before and after a hitch. If any crewmember gets sick on board, we must notify the U.S. Coast Guard, who will remove the infected mariner. The rest of the crew, who may by now be sick too, need to quarantine for 14 days. If I can’t find replacement crew at short notice, I have to tie up boats.”

Standard protocols, like outfitting a boat before a work stint, also have become complicated during the pandemic.

“If we get a call for a long-distance tow, we can’t provision the boat as we used to by going to the supermarket and buying up five or six shopping carts (of goods),” Vinik said. “Now there are limits on the amount of certain items that we can purchase.”

Vinik said his company moves oil and assists other boats moving oil, but work in that sector has dropped because people aren’t driving as much and they’re not flying.  

“The 68,000 aircraft that are idled are not burning fuel. That means less oil is being moved around,” he said in April. “COVID-19 has really hurt business.”

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