New Jersey marine industry hit hard

TRENTON, N.J. – New Jersey boat builders have eliminated about 1,000 jobs in the last 18 months, according to a report in the New York Times. The state’s biggest boat builder alone, Viking Yacht Company, is down more than 500 jobs from a high of 1,360 workers a year ago, the paper reported.

Viking told the Times that production for medium-sized boats, 46-foot to 68-foot models, will run at half speed through the summer because of weak demand.

“We’re planning on 40 percent less product,” Andrew Davala of Viking told the paper. “And we’re keeping the lines going at a slower pace.”

Another New Jersey builder, Ocean Yachts, reported that its staff has dwindled from 130 to 50 employees in the last two years. And in January, yacht maker Silverton Marine announced plans to lay off more than 200 workers by the end of March.

In general, New Jersey manufacturing lost 15,900 jobs last year, the Labor Department reported. According to the Times, that 5.1 percent decline is almost five times steeper than the 1.17 percent decline in employment overall across the state.

Several Times sources compared the current drought in boat orders to the one in 1991, when a recession and federal luxury tax nearly put Viking out of business. However, Bass River Mayor Deborah Buzby-Cope, whose city counts Viking as its biggest employer, says the present situation is worse because widespread economic distress has left laid-off workers unable to find replacement jobs.

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Buzby-Cope told the Times she follows turnout at the major boat shows as closely as other mayors might keep tabs on property values. As for those shows, Davala of Viking told the paper the Fort Lauderdale show was a washout, but Viking left Miami with several orders for the company’s largest yachts, which sell for $4 million to $5 million.

Right now, Davala said the company is looking to higher earners to carry them through, telling the Times, "Our buyer is somewhat insulated from the economy.”

To read the full Times report, click here.

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