Metal Shark, Jeanerette, La., has been awarded two separate contracts to build passenger vessels for Alexandria, Va.-based Potomac Riverboat Co. division of Entertainment Cruises, and for the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority.

For Potomac Riverboat Co., Metal Shark will produce four 88', high speed/low wake, 149-passenger aluminum catamarans. The new passenger vessels will provide commuters in the Washington D.C., metro region with service between Old Town Alexandria, Va.; National Harbor, Md.; and Georgetown and The Wharf in Washington D.C. Entertainment Cruises is the U.S.’s largest dining and sightseeing cruise company, with a fleet of 30 vessels operating in more than a dozen major U.S. cities, according to Metal Shark.

For the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA), Metal Shark will build two 105'x25', high speed/low wake, 149-passenger aluminum catamaran ferries, which are designed to improve passenger comfort and convenience, operating economy, safety, and environmental friendliness on New Orleans ferry routes. Currently RTA operates two ferries built in 1977 and 1937 to transport New Orleans-area passengers across the Mississippi River.

Rendering of the 88’,149-passenger aluminum catamaran vessel that Metal Shark will produce under a four-boat contract for Potomac Riverboat Company, a division of Entertainment Cruises. Metal Shark photo

Rendering of the 88’,149-passenger aluminum catamaran vessel that Metal Shark will produce under a four-boat contract for Potomac Riverboat Company, a division of Entertainment Cruises. Metal Shark photo

The vessels for both projects were designed by BMT Designers and Planners, Alexandria, Va., drawing from the company’s extensive portfolio of proven low-wake, low-wash hull forms. Both vessels are Subchapter T compliant and have been designed to combine passenger comfort with fuel efficiency and low environmental impact.

Metal Shark will begin deliveries of vessels to Potomac Riverboat in 2017 and to the RTA in 2018.

“Efficiently producing multivessel orders of sophisticated design within tight timeframes is what we do best,” Carl Wegener, Metal Shark’s director of commercial sales, said in a statement announcing the projects. “With our large in-house team of engineers and project managers, we’re able to take complete design packages to the next level, ensuring high quality construction and delivering great value to our customers.”

With a draft of just under 4' from the ultra low-wake BMT Nigel Gee hull, the aluminum ferries for New Orleans will be powered by pairs of Caterpillar C18 Acert, Tier 3 diesel engines, producing 500 hp at 2,100 rpm each. Maneuverability will be enhanced by a set of bowthrusters and ship's service power will come from a pair of 55 kW gensets. (Manufacturers of the gensets and bowthrusters have not been announced.) The boats' propulsion packages should give them running speeds of 22.5 knots. The ferries will feature enclosed pilothouses with large windows for maximum visibility, climate controlled main cabin, port and starboard side boarding, and three bathrooms.

There will be interior main deck seating for 125, exterior main deck seating for 26, two wheelchair tie-downs and accommodations for 10 bicycles and two scooters. Crew will include one master and two deckhands. Capacities will include 1,057 gals. of fuel and 132 gals. fresh water. The new boats will be USCG certified, Subchapter T.

The two awards represent the latest multi-vessel passenger ferry construction projects for Metal Shark’s Franklin, La., shipyard, which opened in 2014 and is currently expanding to meet increased production volume. In 2016 Metal Shark was awarded a contract to produce multiple high-speed aluminum catamaran ferries for New York’s CityWide Ferry System, which are currently being built alongside other projects at the yard.

“These newest awards are the result of extensive collaborative efforts between Metal Shark, BMT, and our newest customers, Entertainment Cruises and RTA,” said Metal Shark’s CEO Chris Allard. “All of us at Metal Shark are honored to have been selected to produce these state-of-the-art passenger vessels that will serve New Orleans and the Washington, D.C. area for years to come.”

Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.