MACC is Definitely Back
- Joseph Keefe, MarineNews Editor
- On board Metal Shark's futuristic autonomous vessel, powered by ASV Global's technology, the Gulf Coast's most active workboat builder is teaming up with the leading force in marine autonomy. The display shown here is what an ASV autonomous driver might see, thousands of miles away from the vessel he/she is driving. Image: Credit Joseph Keefe
Even Mother Nature Can’t Dent the Enthusiasm at this Year’s MACC.
Curtis Bay, MD: On the morning after the Baltimore, MD area received a record 3.5 inches of torrential rain in just 90 minutes, this year’s Multi-Agency Craft Conference (MACC) kicked off without a hitch at the United States Coast Guard Yard in Curtis Bay, MD. That may sound easy, but for those flying in Tuesday afternoon (or like myself, driving in through DC at exactly the moment that the George Washington Parkway flooded badly near the DCA Airport), it was touch and go.
Although a proud (although badly aging) graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and a licensed mariner – Chief Mate (any gross tons) and a 1600 Ton Master – this officially was my first command at sea. I buried the bow of my ten year old Acura MDX twice on the GW Parkway after surfing through the southern part of the Capital Beltway. Eventually, I surrendered and sought safe refuge at my sister’s house in Alexandria. It was the prudent thing to do. Never made it to the hotel. But, enough about me.
The Conference, spanning two days, continues tomorrow with something for everyone. Hardware, software, high tech developments, high power patrol and special mission craft, versatile solutions for military and municipal missions alike – there was a reason for every operator, builder, propulsion provider and OEM to make the effort to be here. And come they did; in robust numbers and with enthusiasm.
Up at Oh-Dark-Thirty, I braved the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, crawled to the Baltimore area with the rest of the commuters, and arrived (just in case my publisher is monitoring this missive) at 0807 AM. I myself took in the entire trade show floor twice, arriving in time for the hearty, ASNE-sponsored on site breakfast. That left plenty of time for three impressively led boat trials on the water. This part of the show is always the highlight of this valuable two-day conference. That I made it through several high speed laps, tight turns and maneuvers without also surrendering my breakfast is in no way attributable to my intestinal fortitude. The technology, solid construction and impressive designs instead saved the day. And, the professional operators provided by Metal Shark, ASV – yes, ASV, MetalCraft and Safe Boats were gracious hosts, and skilled boat drivers.
- On the Waterfront
First up on the docket was Safe Boat International’s absolutely impressive and superbly equipped entry for this year’s MACC event. I readily admit that I muscled my way onto this early tour with the aggressive tenor of a White House correspondent. There are only so many seats. I got one.
If you’ve never cornered with Seakeeper’s high-tech stabilizers, well, then, you’ve never cornered a boat at 50 MPH. I’m not much of a rollercoaster guy and wasn’t looking forward to experiencing the full capabilities of this boat. But, it turned out to be a non-event, even for this sedate, blue water mariner. Tight turns with precise control instantly produced what every first responder and military Special Forces mariner needs: absolute control with full comfort in a full speed environment.
I stepped off the Safe Boat tour and tiptoed my way down the pier to – without a doubt – the high-tech wonder of this event. ASV’s collaborative partnership with Gulf Coast dynamo Metal Shark was an eye-opener. Everyone talks about the coming of autonomous vessels or the advent of a new era. Nonsense. Autonomous vessels are here. ASV is the provider and Metal Shark – the rapidly expanding Gulf Coast Builder – will be the next conduit to America’s brown water, workboat industry.
On board this futuristic vessel, the fact that ASV autonomously drove the vessel around Curtis Bay was indeed significant. Others have also done that, too. But sitting on board and being able to witness the exact same readouts and outputs that the ASV driver might see – thousands of miles away – was surely impressive. At the same time, the captain surrendered the helm to a remote user. But, this wasn’t a one-time event. In fact, ASV has done it more than 100 times, to commercial and military success – in real world conditions. They even get paid for it.
Now, and in collaboration with Metal Shark, the future suddenly becomes clearer – and far more realistic. Anyone who missed this ride today needs to make sure they queue up for it tomorrow.
On a third, yet equally impressive departure from the dock, the MetalCraft Marine’s 9 meter hull also impressed. But for different reasons and, of course, some of the same. What was most obvious was the versatility and adaptability of this hull to multiple missions, some crammed into the same compact package, all bolstered by a robust propulsion and electronics package. Here’s all you need to know: military and municipal users – trailered or non-trailered – whatever your mission, open cockpit or enclosed, firefighting or patrol, you have options at MetalCraft.
As the only journalist on this particular boat trip, I silently listened in on the headsets as two government crane SME’s discussed the merits of knuckle boom small boat extraction methods versus the previous solution. It is far more interesting than you might think. You can’t make this kind of thing up. Such is the dialogue at North America’s most intense gathering of military buyers, OEM providers and the shipyards and designers that provide the platforms to make it all possible.
Thursday promises more of the same. I’ll be there. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. What about you? – Marinelink.
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Joseph Keefe is a 1980 (Deck) graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and lead commentator of MaritimeProfessional.com. Additionally, he is Editor of both Maritime Logistics Professional and MarineNews magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at Keefe@marinelink.com. MaritimeProfessional.com is the largest business networking site devoted to the marine industry. Each day thousands of industry professionals around the world log on to network, connect, and communicate.