Metal Shark acquires Horizon Shipbuilding, expertise in steel hulls


In early June, Metal Shark of Louisiana acquired the assets of Horizon Shipbuilding, the Alabama-based company that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year. The deal provides Metal Shark with another yard and gives it steel expertise.

At the 35-acre facility in Bayou La Batre, Ala., Metal Shark plans to design and build steel vessels and repair existing boats, said Josh Stickles, Metal Shark’s vice president of marketing.

“We’re implementing Metal Shark’s project management, serialized production and technologies at the Alabama yard, and we’re introducing our engineering-centric culture,” he said. “It’s now called Metal Shark-Alabama.”

In addition to steel construction and a new focus for Metal Shark on refits, repairs and conversions, Stickles cited the benefits of Horizon’s location. By boat, Bayou La Batre is minutes from the Intracoastal Waterway, with access to the Gulf of Mexico.

Metal Shark’s aluminum shipbuilding has grown rapidly in recent years, and the Horizon acquisition will fuel future growth, Stickles said.

“(Horizon CEO) Travis Short and his team … enjoyed great success with the construction of steel pushers and tugs, OSVs, barges and other steel vessels,” he said. “We’ll leverage those capabilities for traction in markets that are new for us. The Alabama yard’s plasma cutters, 660-ton Travelift and other assets will be put to good use.”

In June, Short was named executive vice president at Metal Shark.

Meanwhile, at Metal Shark’s other facilities in Franklin and Jeanerette, La., “all processes will remain unchanged since they’re tried, true and successful,” Stickles said. The company is actively hiring at all of its locations; no layoffs are planned in Alabama.

“A management group from Metal Shark-Franklin has relocated to Alabama, and many of our new Alabama employees will be cross-trained in Louisiana,” Stickles said. “We’ve been in touch with some former Horizon employees, and as production is ramped up, we hope to bring many of them back. All qualified boatbuilders are welcome to apply for positions at our three facilities.”

In recent years, Horizon suffered waves of layoffs as it worked to stay viable. David Rodgers, economic development vice president at the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, said the company’s jobs have been important to southern Mobile County. He was encouraged by indications that remaining Horizon workers would be retained by Metal Shark and that former employees could be hired.

Metal Shark is expected to deliver three 350-passenger Subchapter K ferries from its Franklin yard to NYC Ferry in 2018. Last year, Metal Shark supplied six ferries to the operator and won contracts for five more. Horizon, which also was building ferries for NYC Ferry, filed for bankruptcy protection in October. It delivered 10 of an intended 13 ferries to the service last year, and the remaining three won’t be built.

A division between Metal Shark’s small-boat production and its shipbuilding work will exist, Stickles said. Metal Shark-Franklin recently delivered its third and fourth 150-passenger water taxis to the Potomac Riverboat Co. Franklin’s pending orders include two 150-passenger ferries for New Orleans, with one to be delivered this summer; a 65-foot hydrographic survey vessel for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; a 64-foot pilot boat for the Brazos Pilots in Freeport, Texas; a 158-foot Incat Crowther catamaran for a private client; and the first boat under a U.S. Navy contract for 13 85-foot near-coastal patrol vessels. Metal Shark acquired the Franklin facility in 2014.

Metal Shark-Jeanerette is building U.S. and foreign military vessels, law enforcement boats, fireboats and custom workboats. Its production totals about 200 vessels yearly, ranging from 16 feet to 45 feet. Under a 2012 contract, newly built U.S. Coast Guard response boats-small are shipping weekly, Stickles said. U.S. Navy force protection boats-medium are in production and are shipping routinely, and work began this year on up to 50 U.S. Navy PB-Xs, or next-generation patrol boats. Jeanerette also will complete the remaining eight units of a 12-boat order for 38-foot Defiant patrol boats for the Dutch Caribbean coast guard. The Jeanerette yard is from Metal Shark’s forerunner, Gravois Aluminum Boats, founded in 1986.

With the acquisition, Metal Shark’s three facilities in Alabama and Louisiana span more than 75 acres, with a work force of more than 500.

“As we integrate the Alabama facility into our structure, we’ll make further announcements about that yard soon,” Stickles said regarding vessel production.

By Professional Mariner Staff