History of Bellingham’s Aluminum Chambered Boats

By Dave Gallagher, The Bellingham Herald, Wash.

A look at the company history of Aluminum Chambered Boats:

1998 — Founded by Larry Wieber, starting at the Fairhaven Marine Industrial Park, where it is today. The original boats, named Stabi-craft, are made using technology from New Zealand and improved upon by Bill Hickock. The company occupies 30,000 square feet of space. The name of the boats is changed by company officials in response to the U.S. Coast Guard, which created a special category in its boating books for “aluminum chambered boats.”

2001 — A week before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Aluminum Chambered Boats tests a prototype boat for the Navy. In October 2001 more Navy officials show up for additional testing, and a few weeks later ACB receives its government contracting number, qualifying it to sell boats to the U.S. military.

2002 — Company begins landing sales from the military and government agencies, hitting $5 million by mid-year.

2004 — ACB is awarded an $18 million contract to supply 66 boats to the U.S. Marine Corps. The 24-foot boats will be used to install or replace bridges.

2006 — ACB develops technology for a composite protective panel for small boats. The panels are able to stop ammunition from AK-47s and other small-arms fire. ACB also forms a business partnership with global defense company Northrop Grumman Corp. This appears to be the peak year for ACB employment, at 110 employees.

2007 — The U.S. Coast Guard awards $9.9 million contract for ACB to build 47 rigid-hull inflatable boats. In anticipation of new contracts, ACB announces plans in July to build a 190,000-square-foot building in the I-5 Industrial Center near Ferndale. Those plans are put on hold two months later.

July 2008 — Jim Moore is hired as president and chief operating officer, replacing Tim Metz. ACB is awarded a $12.8 million contract by the U.S. Marine Corps. to build 42 more bridge-erection boats.

March 2010 — Wieber resigns his position as CEO but remains on ACB’s board of directors. Company President Jim Moore takes over as CEO.

May 2010 — ACB announces an award from the U.S. Coast Guard that could mean the construction of up to 80 boats and $37.7 million in revenue. Production is expected to start in the fall. The Coast Guard plans to do additional tests on the 32-foot security boats before placing orders. At the time of the announcement, ACB has about 60 employees. The government later delays production.

Nov. 15 — ACB announces that it is ceasing operations at its Bellingham manufacturing plant.

Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2269.

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