Louisiana-based shipbuilder Metal Shark has delivered two new custom welded aluminum vessels to the Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA).

The boats, designed by Metal Shark and built at the company’s Jeanerette, La., production facility, were recently delivered to St. Thomas and transferred to VIPA. Both vessels are now operating from the Edward Wilmoth Blyden IV Marine Facility on the Charlotte Amalie waterfront where they serve the island of St. Thomas and also nearby St. John.

The new pilot boat is a 45' Defiant-class monohull pilothouse vessel with a military-proven hull design and a unique deck arrangement specifically designed for pilot operations. The boat’s climate-controlled pilothouse features Metal Shark’s “Pillarless Glass” designed to improve visibility, in a reverse-raked arrangement developed by the boatbuilder with input from numerous pilot groups. Visibility is further augmented by the vessel’s elevated, centerline helm position. Large opening side and aft pilothouse windows and a wireless crew communication headset system facilitate crew coordination during pilot transfers, and large overhead skylights provide upward visibility while approaching and operating alongside moving ships.

Fully flush non-skid decks allow for unimpeded access around the vessel, and hand rails have been placed within easy reach of all crew, inside the cabin and outside on deck, at all times. Low-level LED pathway lighting enhances safety during nighttime operation. The vessel’s large, functional swim platform, plus easily accessible Jason’s Cradle, dive ladder, and throwable life rings, are intended to assure quick and safe crew retrieval in the event of a man overboard situation.

Powered by twin Cummins QSM11 diesel engines coupled with HamiltonJet HJ322 waterjets, the 45' Defiant Pilot is designed to demonstrate pinpoint maneuverability while delivering a cruise speed in excess of 30 knots and a top speed in the 40-knot range. A urethane-sheathed, closed-cell foam Wing collar provides durable and resilient fendering. Shock-mitigating seating has been provided for a crew of five, and anti-fatigue floor covering has been provided in the pilothouse and the belowdecks crew spaces. Additional features include a galley, enclosed head compartment, V-berth, and large walk-in mid-cabin storage compartment. VIPA has named its new pilot boat the George Freeman in honor of its first coxswain, George Elwin Freeman Sr., who worked for VIPA for 33 years until his passing in 2000.

For its new port security patrol boat, VIPA selected Metal Shark’s 32' Defiant, a patrol boat platform with over 100 units currently operating in military and law enforcement service worldwide. Funded in part by a FEMA Port Security Grant, the vessel has been outfitted with a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosive (CBRNE) crew protection system to assure safe and uninterrupted operation in a wide range of disaster response scenarios.

VIPA’s 32' port security boat features Metal Shark’s pillarless pilothouse glass to reduce blind spots compared to conventional pilothouse designs which use smaller, framed windows. Shock mitigating seating has been provided for a crew of four inside the vessel’s climate-controlled cabin. Powered by twin Evinrude E-TEC G2 300-hp outboard engines, VIPA’s 32' Defiant port security vessel cruises at 35 knots and achieves top speeds approaching 50 knots.

“Metal Shark has expanded into the pilot boat market by applying the same principles that made us so successful in the military patrol boat sector,” Metal Shark’s CEO Chris Allard said in a statement announcing the deliveries. “We start with a proven hull design to deliver a boat that performs well and is built to last. Beyond that, we focus on offering genuine improvements by incorporating modern features into smarter and more user friendly arrangements that simply work better than what’s out there. We continue to gain customers in new markets by delivering improved platforms that deliver tangible and sometimes unexpected benefits to operators.”

Established in 1986, Gravois Aluminum Boats LLC and its government/commercial boat entity Metal Shark Boats are suppliers of custom boats for defense, law enforcement, and commercial operators. Key customers include the Coast Guard, Navy, Air Force, Army, foreign militaries, law enforcement agencies, passenger vessel operators, pilot associations, fire departments, and others.


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.