I just returned from a four-day trip to Seattle to attend the annual Passenger Vessel Association convention. There, as in the past two PVA shows, I once again saw mostly smiles and heard plenty of positive news from passenger vessel operators. As opposed to the energy sector, you could say they are truly enjoying a boom. (I’ll provide a full rundown on this bustling sector in my news report from PVA later.)

On Monday, I was able to sneak out of the show in downtown Seattle and drive on to Washington State Ferry’s 50-year-old M.V. Kaleeton for the hour trip across Puget Sound to Bremerton. Twenty minutes later, I was at Safe Boats International’s 100,000-sq.-ft. state-of-the-art facility in Bremerton.

I have visited several Seattle-area boatyards in my 20-plus years that I have been coming to the area, but this was my first trip to Safe. I was impressed. After spending time with president and CEO Dennis Morris and several other Safe officials, I was given the complete tour by Kevin Rowlee, the company’s knowledgeable sales and marketing manager. The tour included three separate buildings: production and administration; customer service, training, and warranty; and collar fabrication/research and development. Kevin was thorough, pointing out the seamless welds on the aluminum boats and Safe’s modular manufacturing process designed to meet exact specifications and standards.

Rowlee and Safe are extremely proud of their patented collar system that “provides all the floatation and stability of a rigid-hull inflatable without the risk of deflation.”

Safe Boats’ MK VI in Tacoma, Wash. David Krapf photo.

Safe Boats’ Mk VI in Tacoma, Wash. David Krapf photo.

After departing Bremerton, we headed south to Safe’s Tacoma facility. That’s where vessels larger than 44’ are produced in the company’s Large Craft Production Facility (LCPF) located in the Port of Tacoma. The facility, which includes over 37,000-sq.-ft. of covered production space, was originally developed to build ships for the Navy during World War II.

Safe has expanded the facility, which provides an ideal spot to produce, launch, and test and support large craft. A big project that has been underway for several years at Tacoma is the 85’x20’ Navy Mark VI high-speed patrol boat. Safe was awarded a $36.5 million contract for six Mk VIs in 2012, the Navy ordered four more Mk VIs in 2014, and then added two more boats to the order. The total value of the contract for 12 Mk VIs is around $52 million. The Navy had initially called for the acquisition of 48 Mk VIs.

So far, Safe has completed nine of the initial order for 12 of the 5,200-hp boats. The 12th Mk VI is scheduled for delivery in the second quarter of 2018.

With 2015’s award of up to 52 coastal interceptor vessels (CIV) from Customs and Border Protection worth up to $48 million, Safe is now working on three major federal programs including 11 Coast Guard over-the-horizon-IV cutter boats and the Mk VIs.

After a full day at Safe, it was back to Seattle and the PVA show on Tuesday. After the show closed for the day, we were bussed to the former Kvichak Marine facility in Ballard (Kvichak is now a Vigor company) for a reception to view the first 135’ WETA ferry for San Francisco scheduled for delivery next week. The second of four 400-passenger ferries was in the shed and should be delivered in a few months. Being able to hop aboard and inspect the new 3,900-hp ferry was a nice finish to a worthwhile trip. My thanks to Vigor for putting together a good show for a small group on short notice. We'll have more on the Hydrus, the first WETA ferry from Vigor, on WorkBoat.com and in our next issue.


David Krapf has been editor of WorkBoat, the nation’s leading trade magazine for the inland and coastal waterways industry, since 1999. He is responsible for overseeing the editorial direction of the publication. Krapf has been in the publishing industry since 1987, beginning as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers in the Houston area. He also was the editor of a transportation industry daily in New Orleans before joining WorkBoat as a contributing editor in 1992. He has been covering the transportation industry since 1989, and has a degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego, and also studied journalism at the University of Houston.