Jeanerette, La.-based Metal Shark Aluminum Boats opened a second facility about a year ago in Franklin, La., to handle the construction of bigger boats. The Jeanerette yard is not a waterside facility, so if Metal Shark wanted to bid on larger military boat contracts, it had to have a facility on the water.

“This is really where our future is going to be, expanding into larger military boats and into the commercial sector.” Metal Shark’s co-owner and president, Chris Allard, said during a visit to the Franklin yard last week,

The yard is working on a number of projects, including a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) multiboat contract for 45' patrol boats for Asia. (Metal Shark also has an FMS contract to build patrol boats for Africa.) Allard said when you deal with these big contracts, it’s important to manage your inventory. “We may have a contract for 30 boats, but we only keep inventory for about six at a time,” he said.

On the commercial side, the yard recently completed a 75' dive boat for Aqueos Corp. in Broussard, La., that features an indoor hyperbaric chamber. “This is what I’m talking about in focusing more on the commercial sector,” said Allard.

Last December, Metal Shark announced that it had reached an agreement with Damen Shipyards to market some of Damen’s designs, including fast crew/supply boats, harbor and terminal vessels, wind farm support vessels, and offshore patrol boats. “Some designs at other yards are dated,” said Allard. “These Damen designs are more technologically modern.”

Allard said that while moving into the commercial market is the right thing to do, military sales are every bit as important as in the past. “The initial reason we looked to expand was to get a chance to bid on the bigger boat military contracts,” he said, “and we take the same approach as we do with the high volume contracts. We may not be the cheapest out there, but we build high quality boats.”

There’s plenty of room for further expansion should it be necessary. “We’ve got 25 acres here and only three to five acres are in use right now,” said Allard. 

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.