Jeanerette, La.-based aluminum boat manufacturer Metal Shark has begun operations at a new shipyard facility in Franklin, La.

In January, Metal Shark acquired a 25-acre waterfront tract situated on the Charenton Bypass Canal in Franklin, La., and announced plans to develop the new property into a facility to support its planned aluminum and steel shipbuilding efforts for vessels up to 250'. Six months later, the new facility is operational and production of its new Endurance-class catamarans is underway.

The Franklin shipyard features over 60,000 sq. ft. of workspace, a newly-constructed assembly building with overhead cranes, large-capacity marine travelift and deepwater access to the Gulf of Mexico. 

Construction at the site is ongoing and the company plans to continue its expansion well beyond this first phase.

“We’re booked well into 2015 with new 45', 55' and 75' pilot boats, multiuse port utility boats and dive support vessels, so we’ve been working around the clock to bring our new Franklin yard online,” Metal Shark President Christopher Allard said in a statement. 

The first ship to take shape at the new yard is a 75'x22' aluminum catamaran-hulled Endurance-class vessel built for a Louisiana port operator. The multiuse vessel has been designed to serve as a command and control center, and will be fitted with a 5,000-gpm fire pump and multiple RF-controlled monitors. Metal Shark will also equip the vessel with a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive (CBRNE) protection system for crew safety and mission readiness in disaster response situations. 

Work will begin soon on a second 75-footer and two 55' versions of the company’s Defiant-class monohull pilot boats as operations are ramped up at the new facility.

The launch of the new yard represents a significant expansion for Metal Shark, a company best known for its welded aluminum center consoles and trailerable pilothouse vessels built for a wide range of law enforcement and military operators. Among its more notable contracts, the company has produced seven classes of vessels for the U.S. Coast Guard and nine classes of vessels for the Navy

To spearhead its efforts in commercial and offshore markets, the company recently hired marine industry veteran Carl Wegener, previously of Austal USA and Kvichack Marine, as its director of commercial sales. Wegener will be responsible for developing the company’s relationships with operators in the passenger ferry, fast crew, utility, entertainment and pilot boat markets.