Metal Shark is expanding its shipyard facility in Franklin, La. To accommodate increased production needs, the boatbuilder is constructing a fully-enclosed 200'x80' large vessel assembly building to enable weather-independent construction of vessels up to 180' in length. In addition, a new stand-alone office building will provide over 4,000 sq. ft. of space for the yard’s executive, engineering, project management, and administrative personnel. Both new buildings are expected to be complete and operational by the second quarter of 2017.

"The property lends itself to expansion if we decide we need to do that," the yard's CEO Chris Allard told WorkBoat in an interview earlier this year. "There's plenty of room to grow." Now that possibility has become a reality.

A new 150'x80' auxiliary structure for final assembly was erected in October and is now fully operational. Additionally, a new 160-ton Marine Travelift boat hoist will arrive in January to facilitate movement of boats around the 25-acre yard. Both were funded in part by a Department of Transportation Maritime Administration (Marad) Small Shipyard grant awarded in April 2016.

As part of the expansion, Metal Shark will expand its Franklin work force from approximately 65 full-time onsite employees to over 100 by the second quarter of 2017.

“We’ve grown our Franklin business significantly since opening the facility in 2014,” Allard said in a statement announcing the yard’s expansion plans. “Currently we’re in the middle of an 18-unit order for 45' foreign military patrol boats, we’ve got the first four of our New York Citywide Ferry builds well under way with the first two vessels 100% welded and entering the rigging phase, and we’re finishing out a 60' DSV for a government customer. With a full slate of new projects scheduled, Franklin will be even busier in 2017 and 2018.”

New projects beginning next year at Franklin include a 45' pilot boat for a Caribbean operator, a multiboat Navy contract for 50' high-speed vessels, a 64' survey boat for the Corps of Engineers, a 70' supply boat for a Northeast operator, and a 158' Incat Crowther-designed catamaran for a private client.

“Our strategic plan for our Franklin yard is falling into place,” said Carl Wegener, Metal Shark’s director of commercial sales. “That is, to produce multiple large vessels efficiently and with faster delivery times by leveraging our economies of scale, our military-honed QA systems, and the serialized production methodologies we’ve developed over the course of producing nearly 1,000 patrol boats for U.S. and foreign militaries. Passenger vessel operators, pilot associations, and other clients have been thrilled with our lead times as well as our quality.”

Since opening in 2014, Metal Shark’s Franklin shipyard has produced a wide range of monohull and catamaran dive support vessels, fireboats, passenger vessels, patrol boats, pilot boats, and port security vessels up to 95'.

Established in 1986, Gravois Aluminum Boats LLC, and its government/commercial boat entity Metal Shark have become leading suppliers of custom boats for defense, law enforcement, and commercial entities. Key customers include the U.S. Coast Guard, Navy, Air Force, Army, foreign militaries, port operators and pilot associations, fire departments, and commercial entities worldwide.

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.