Metal Shark Alabama, Bayou La Batre, Ala., was awarded a new contract recently to build three 120'x35' river towboats for Florida Marine Transporters Inc. (FMT), Mandeville, La.

The four-decked, welded-steel, Subchapter M-compliant towboats, designed by John W. Gilbert Associates Inc., Hingham, Mass., will be powered by twin Caterpillar 3512C Tier 3 marine diesel engines rated at 1,911 hp each. Construction is underway at Metal Shark Alabama, with deliveries beginning in 2019.

The contract marks Metal Shark’s expansion into the steel shipbuilding sector and formal entry into the inland towboat market following the company’s June acquisition of Horizon Shipbuilding, now Metal Shark Alabama. With that purchase, Metal Shark, known for its welded aluminum vessels, assumed ownership of a fully developed 35-acre Alabama shipyard with the goal of expanding its steel shipbuilding efforts.

“The first step in bringing our Alabama facilities online was to implement the technology, production and project management methodologies, and engineering-driven processes developed and perfected during the course of building over 1,000 vessels at our two Louisiana shipbuilding facilities,” Metal Shark’s CEO Chris Allard said in a statement announcing the contract. “Now with systems in place, multiple new steel vessels under construction, and strong demand for our refit and repair services, we can proudly say that Metal Shark Alabama is fully open for business.”

To support its growth plans, Metal Shark is aggressively recruiting in both Alabama and Louisiana to expand its workforce.

The company also recently fortified its executive management and business development teams with the addition of several veterans of the commercial shipbuilding sector, including:

  • Tim Scheib, former shipyard commander of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and more recently president and CEO of barge manufacturer Brownsville Marine Products. Scheib now serves as president of Metal Shark and directs the company’s production operations.
  • Mike Hennessey, former Brownsville Marine Products vice president of sales and marketing. Hennessey is now Metal Shark’s director of commercial sales — inland waterways, and spearheads the company’s business development efforts in the freshwater/inland commercial sector.
  • Billy Smith III, former founder, shareholder, and vice president of Trinity Yachts LLC., which began as a division of VT Halter Marine. Smith is now a key account manager for Metal Shark and was directly involved in developing the relationship between FMT and Metal Shark.
  • Doug Barrow, formerly general manager of Great Lakes Towing Co. and Great Lakes Shipyard. Barrow is now a vice president at Metal Shark and directs operations at Metal Shark Alabama.
  • Travis Short, former president and CEO of Horizon Shipbuilding, which built towboats for multiple inland waterways operators, including FMT. Short was retained in Metal Shark’s acquisition of Horizon and now serves as an executive vice president at Metal Shark Alabama.

“Our significant and ongoing investment in Alabama underscores the extent to which we are committed to solidifying our status as a highly capable and competitive steel shipbuilder,” said Allard. “We will continue to aggressively recruit new employees, engage new clients, and push to set new standards for efficiency and reliability as we build on what is now the most diverse portfolio of vessels offered by any domestic shipbuilder.”