With yards in both Canada and the U.S., MetalCraft Marine brings a unique perspective to bear on the markets in which it specializes: High-speed fireboats, patrol craft and workboats. We asked the company’s Contracts Manager Bob Clark to give us some insights into the company, its product lines, and what it sees ahead.
Marine Log (ML): MetalCraft has two facilities—one in New York and one in Ontario. Are they similarly sized and equipped and which producdes the most boats?
Bob Clark (BC): MetalCraft has facilities in Kingston Ontario, a border town with New York, and opened a manufacturing facility in Clayton, N.Y., in 2007, forming MetalCraft Marine US Inc. The company expanded to larger facilities in Cape Vincent, N.Y., just up the road, in 2012. The company recently purchased a much larger facility in Watertown, N.Y., and moved in April during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Watertown plant is the largest and most modern facility and has room to expand. The plant is large enough currently to build up to 90 feet, however MCM U.S. needs more employees.
Kingston has three smaller buildings on two different sites and we have learned how much more efficient it is to be in a single large building. Watertown and Kingston are 50 minutes apart.
ML: The fireboat market looks to be a strong one. Are more fire departments realizing the value of waterborne assets?
B.C.: The fireboat market is still strong, albeit slowed by COVID. A number of new contracts have been put on hold as well as new tenders. The smaller fireboat market was particularly brisk prior to COVID as municipalities had good revenues. A lot of these have dried up, although MCM has sold five of its smaller fire rescue boats in the last couple of months.
ML: Fireboats look to be increasingly equipped with very sophisticated equipment such as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) defenses. Is this something that even small departments are looking for?
B.C: The larger fireboats have quite a list of sophisticated equipment. These typically include, Chemical, Biological, Radiological/Nuclear detection equipment. The most capable version of this was a recent delivery to Los Angeles Port Police. The Interceptor 44 had a RAD system that can detect radiological threats through the side of a ship and check every ship entering the L,A, Port area, it also has a Chem-Bio detector that can read hazardous threats 3.1 miles away, process the data instantly and develop mapping for the plume’s size, density, direction and speed. We have a very similar system on a Firestorm 50 in downtown Washington, D.C.
CBRN detection is mandated in all FEMA grant supported emergency vessels.
ML: What propulsion options are customers looking for?
B.C.: The propulsion outlook is a very interesting one, where more and more outboards are being specified. There are several reasons for this but the large elephant in the room is price. The diesel makers are driving customers to outboard power, here’s a simple look at it. Two 300 HP diesels cost $80,000 to $90,000 but then you need to add a robust engine girder system, a water system, exhaust system and electrical panels/harnesses. Approximately $25-$30,000 more, total cost $120,000-$130,000. Oh, but you still need to add jets or shafts or outdrives add another $15,000 -$30,000, your real total is $140,000 -$160,000.
The same 2 X 300 HP for your vessel in outboards costs $45,000 plus $5000 in harness controls etc., and install in a day, total cost $55,000-$60,000. $160,000 versus $60,000 is a huge difference. And if an outboard blows up, its $25,000, if a diesel blows up, its $30,000 in repairs minimum and your boat is down for days. I’m not sure how the diesel makers claw this back.
ML: What can we expect from MetalCraft in 2021?
In 2021 we will be launching the world’s first hydraulic twin tower FireCat 81. The Northsea wind farm design will be the first of its kind and will revolutionize larger port marine firefighting. Why would any port pay $27 million for a New York or L.A. Port style oversized tug that requires major manpower when for $10 million you can buy the same firepower, manned by five to six crew.
B.C.: In 2021, we expect the market will bounce back strong as there is a lot of pent-up demand. Commercial operators whose business model mimics the same pent-up demand, need to buy now before the delivery gets pushed out too far for them to capture market share.