Metal Shark Boats. Stateside shipbuilding
Carl F. Wegener
Vice President of Commercial Sales
Metal Shark Boats
“After about 20 years of building some legendary recreational boats for the Louisiana area, Gravois Aluminum Boats teamed up with American Marine Holdings in 2003 to form a new product line of aluminium patrol boats and work boats for law enforcement and military customers. This was the start of Metal Shark Boats,” begins Carl Wegener, Vice President of Commercial Sales at Metal Shark.
And then, in 2014 and operating as an independent company, Metal Shark Boats moved to a large waterfront facility in Franklin, Louisiana. This enabled construction of aluminium vessels up to 75 metres long, which led to a string of successes with navy and coast guard contracts.
American licences Metal Shark’s cooperation with Damen stemmed from the fact that, although they had an extensive in-house engineering department, they did not have access to larger designs. “While we had a lot of success with FMS (foreign military sales) through both the US Coast Guard and US Navy – for example we have got vessels in over 50 countries around the world – we were always limited to a certain size length,” Carl explains. “We really needed the input from another company; this is what resulted in the licensing agreement with Damen who has a tremendous diversity of designs in their portfolio and experience in multiple markets. This led to the contract for thirteen Damen Stan Patrol boats for the US Department of Defense Foreign Military Sales Program.”
Presenting the FCS 7011
The cooperative relationship between Metal Shark Boats and Damen is continuing with the development of the Fast Crew Supplier 7011. “We have been involved with the marketing of the vessel. That is why we jointly introduced the design at the New Orleans WorkBoat Show last December. The next step is when we will get actively involved in the detailed design and assistance with rules and regulations for operations in US waters.”
For Metal Shark, the focus of the FCS 7011 is for the Gulf of Mexico oil & gas market, for American, and possibly Mexican, operators. “We have had good meetings with some of the major oil companies, and we are starting to see some interest.”
With the combination of Damen’s American team based in Houston and our production facility, we are going to see someone getting serious about building one of these soon.
A notable event occurred at the Metal Shark offices just before the time of writing this article: the company acquired a new shipyard, Horizon Shipbuilding in Alabama. The stats of this fully developed shipyard are impressive: nine assembly buildings, a 600 tonne travel lift, CNC plasma cutters and 1,500 tonne launch capacity. However, perhaps the most important aspect of this acquisition is that it extends Metal Shark’s shipbuilding capabilities to steel.
“This is very exciting for us,” smiles Carl. “We were basically limited to aluminium vessels up to 75 metres in length, but now with this new facility we have added steel production of up to 100 metres. This opens up a whole new chapter of Damen designs. After all, we are not just focused on military and government contracts; we do a lot of commercial work as well. For example, we have built thirteen passenger ferries in the last eighteen months at our Franklin facility.”
This recent expansion of Metal Shark Boats – taking the number of employees up to 500 – certainly adds to the overall added value of the collaboration with Damen. “Considering the Jones Act, you put our experience in building smaller vessels next to Damen’s portfolio, and you have literally every type that anybody could want. Providing proven designs with a high-quality build to US operators.”
Metal Shark Boats constructs aluminium vessels up to 75 metres long at its Franklin, Louisiana shipyard.
With its new facilities in Alabama, Metal Shark Boats has added production of steel vessels up to 100 metres long to its abilities.