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The BP Effect series, so far, has been a blast to write. I’ve had the opportunity to meet tons of great people and get a real feel for how dynamic this incident was and how broad-ranging the effects have and continue to be. This is the fourth article in the series and today I’m talking about a business that has had, arguably, one of the most literal direct impacts from the BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill. Captain Anderson’s Marina’s business IS the water. They have four sources of revenue, all of them are directly and indirectly tied to the Gulf of Mexico. But first, I want to clear some stuff up. And, rather than rant on here, click here to read about what caused this summer’s economic disaster in Panama City Beach.
Captain Anderson’s Marina was built in the mid 50’s with the intention of serving boaters and performing as a hub for their own boating operations. Originally providing tours to Shell Island, their business grew to include a large dinner yacht (first the original Captain Anderson, now the Lady Anderson) and a deep sea fishing “head-boat”. In addition to their fleet of boats, other sources of revenue come from boat slip rentals, commercial space rental and fuel sales. All of this was impacted this summer.
Dinner Boat, Deep Sea Fishing and Shell Island Tours
Just like the local resorts, the Anderson’s rely on tourists coming to town to fill their boats. The TDC’s bed tax revenue was down 15% over July and August, but Pam Anderson reported some aspects of her business were down as much 60% to 70%. She needed people to fill her boats, but the people weren’t here. “Head-boats” is an industry term describing the type of boat that is capable of bringing large numbers of people on tours or deep sea fishing. Normally during the summer months, with five total head-boats at Captain Anderson’s Marina, there is never a head-boat at dock except for when they are loading and unloading scheduled trips. The boats are gone all day. This summer, three of the boats were being used for vessels of opportunity with the two remaining being barely busy enough to maintain regular running schedules. Occupancy was down, ticket sales were down, revenue was down.
Boat Slip Rentals – The Charter Fishing Captains
The bulk of Captain Anderson’s Marina’s slip rental business is to smaller, private charter boat captains. If you’re looking to take yourself and a group of friends or family on a private yacht and fish all day, this is the place to do it. These captains take you out to their secret, coveted spots and bring you back with big smiles and tons of fish. This summer, the people just weren’t here. The fishing was as great as it always was, the seafood was safe, but the outside perception of what was happening here kept customers away. If the captains weren’t selling charter trips, how are they going to pay rent?
You’ve Got To Fuel Up Somewhere
When you have a marina, the boats there are going to need fuel at some point. For a marina owner, this a great source of revenue and an essential service to provide the boating tenants. This summer, fuel sales were down dramatically because captains were using their boats less and differently. Less people meant less charters and head-boat trips. in addition, the boats that were being used for the vessels of opportunity program were burning less fuel. Normally, a private charter boat would use 100 to 350 gallons of fuel per trip. The boats there were participating in the vessels of opportunity were using between 25 and 50 gallons of fuel per trip. Less fuel equals less revenue.
Waves of Wasted Resources
I’m sure you have heard the term “vessels of opportunity” thrown around like I have over the last couple months. But, not being a boater, I never really took the time to get my arms around it, how it worked, how it benefited boaters and how it wasted resources and limited what people could do over the summer. With few customers coming to town and reservations way down, charter boat captains really had no idea what to expect, but knew they needed to find a way to make some money. When the vessels of opportunity program came online, this was a way by which they could put their boat to work and generate some revenue for their business. They’d sign up, some would get approved, they’d be called out for a window of time, be used for some of that time (being paid well for that time), asked to keep their schedules open while on un-paid stand-by and hope to get called back out again. These captains had to keep their schedule open for a hopeful call to be used, turn down potential business when it did come through the door, and sit at the dock during their down time, wishing the dollars would come in like they used to. Fishing trips were missed, revenue opportunities were lost and tons of resources were just wasted away over the summer.
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Captain Anderson’s Marina is still here, they’re still alive and well, but this summer was harder than ever. Pam Anderson did all she could, hosting no less than 15 awareness events on her dollar to ensure she was doing her part to support her business and the businesses that relied on her Marina. Her public outreach and the public outreach she enabled no doubt had an enormous positive effect on the stability of her business, but this was supposed to be the best of all summers. The BP Effect took it’s toll here, but Captain Anderson’s Marina will live to catch another fish.
For more information about Captain Anderson’s Marina, visit CaptAndersonsMarina.com.