Metal Shark has acquired the assets of Horizon Shipbuilding, Bayou La Batre, Ala. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court Southern District of Alabama issued a final order approving the sale of the assets on June 5.

With the acquisition, Metal Shark will now build in steel. Metal Shark photo

With the acquisition, Metal Shark will now build in steel. Metal Shark photo

“We are thrilled to acquire the assets of Horizon, which will greatly increase our shipbuilding capability and capacity,” Metal Shark CEO Chris Allard, said in a statement. “This acquisition will dramatically expand Metal Shark, as we add an impressive Alabama facility to our growing portfolio of shipyards and leverage Horizon’s expertise in the construction of steel vessels.”

With the acquisition, Metal Shark assumes ownership of a fully developed 35-acre shipbuilding facility in the Mobile Bay region, with separate east and west yards both fronting a dredged deepwater inlet. The facility boasts a total of nine assembly buildings; a 660-ton Travelift; multiple cranes, CNC plasma cutters, welders, and other fixtures supporting the construction of steel and aluminum vessels up to 300' in length and 1,500 tons launch weight. Metal Shark’s new Alabama yard is situated just minutes from the Intracoastal Waterway with direct access to the Gulf of Mexico.

The assets sale is not the first connection the two shipyards have shared. Two years ago Metal Shark and Horizon were selected to build — on an aggressive schedule — 19 aluminum catamaran Incat Crowther-designed 85'4"x26'3" ferries for New York City. Both yards were given contracts for a certain number of ferries by ferry operator HNY Ferry Fleet LLC, the Hornblower subsidiary that is running the system for the city. By November 2016, 16 contracts had been let and there was what amounted to a competition, based on what Hornblower saw during each yard's construction process, to see who would build the additional boats.

In 2017, Horizon made the first delivery to New York's NYC Ferry Service, with Metal Shark making its first delivery right behind it. But the aggressive schedule proved too much for Horizon, logging far more labor hours than it had anticipated, helping plunge the shipyard into a financial quagmire that eventually led to a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in October 2017. Meanwhile, the ferry service was an almost immediate success and Metal Shark was given additional contracts to build more boats for the service. According to the purchase agreement, Horizon retains "the completed and partially completed keels for the catamaran ferries to be built for HNY Ferry Fleet."

With its new facility, Metal Shark plans to be active in the design and construction of custom steel vessels for multiple markets, as well as the refit, repair, and conversion of existing vessels. Metal Shark owns and operates two Louisiana shipyards that specialize in aluminum construction in Jeanerette, La., and Franklin, La.

“As we add steel vessels to our already broad range of aluminum craft, we will offer everything from a sixteen-foot aluminum skiff to steel vessels up to 300', and virtually everything in between, making the diversity of Metal Shark’s portfolio truly unmatched in the industry,” said Allard. “Additionally, our Alabama yard’s complete refit and repair services will appeal to customers throughout the Gulf, and also those in the South Florida and Caribbean yachting community. These clients will benefit from an accessible and modern facility with some of the most competitive labor rates in the nation.”

Since filing for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 in October 2017, Horizon has continued to operate under the direction of company CEO Travis R. Short. With the acquisition, Short will join Metal Shark as executive vice president.

“Over his past 20-plus years with Horizon, Travis has done an outstanding job of building and maintaining relationships with customers across multiple sectors,” said Allard. “He is well-liked and respected; he brings great shipbuilding knowledge and insight, and we’re happy to welcome him to Metal Shark.”

“After a long run at Horizon, I am pleased to enter this next phase by joining this team and by bringing our Alabama yard into the Metal Shark family,” Short said in a prepared statement. “We are excited to add the technology, engineering, and processes that have set Metal Shark apart in the industry.”

The acquisition of Horizon is the latest in a series of expansion moves by Metal Shark. In 2014 the company opened its 25-acre Franklin, La., shipyard, which currently produces aluminum vessels up to 200' in length including passenger vessels and larger military craft. The most recent Franklin expansion includes a new 200'x80' large vessel assembly building and 8,000 sq.-ft. office building just finished this year. Meanwhile, the company’s nearby 15-acre Jeanerette, La., production campus, also expanded numerous times in recent years, currently produces nearly 200 boats a year for U.S and foreign militaries, law enforcement agencies, fire departments, and others. The company is heavily recruiting as it seeks to bolster its workforce to support its growth plans.

“We will now incorporate Metal Shark’s technology, our production and project management methodologies, and the power of our in-house staff of over 40 engineers and naval architects to integrate these new assets into our operations,” Allard said. “We will also begin to separate our boatbuilding and shipbuilding efforts and recognize them as different entities. As we continue on this very calculated trajectory, we feel the conditions are perfect for the further growth and diversification of our portfolio.”­

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.