MN100: Chris Allard: Co-Owner / CEO Metal Shark
A naval architect and graduate of the Webb Institute, Co-Owner/CEO Chris Allard introduced the engineering-centric approach that has fueled Metal Shark’s growth; driving innovation and transforming the company from a regional builder to a globally recognized industry leader.
Under Allard’s direction, Metal Shark has successfully captured over $500 million in government and military contracts while expanding into the commercial sector and becoming one of the largest suppliers of high speed ferries.
Today, at three fully self-contained facilities in Alabama and Louisiana, Metal Shark manufactures vessels in aluminum, steel, and fiberglass, with current capabilities supporting production for vessels up to 300’ in length. Somehow, Allard and Metal Shark are always on the leading edge of any new boatbuilding development.
Probably the biggest recent announcement for Metal Shark was its acquisition of the assets of Horizon Shipbuilding, which brought a 35-acre Alabama shipyard into its portfolio, bolstering steel shipbuilding capabilities and facilitating our entry into multiple new markets. The firm’s launch of Sharktech Autonomous Vessels was another highlight. The first Sharktech effort was in partnership with ASV/L3, clearly a leading name in the space. At the same time, the US Coast Guard RB-S program continued in force, with over 320 units in service by the end of 2018. In 2018 alone, the firm delivered over 200 vessels to operators in a range of markets including US and foreign militaries, passenger vessels, and others.
For Allard, who always has his eyes on the ball, the Jones Act is another area of note. He told MarineNews, “We monitor Jones Act issues closely and support efforts to keep the Act in full effect. Whether or not politicians or the public agree with the Act, the simple fact is that a wholesale repeal would end shipbuilding as we know it in the United States. As a taxpayer, that’s not something I think is best for our country.”
Allard and Metal Shark have done a good job of spacing our revenue stream across multiple sectors. Their version of diversification involves multiple markets, vessel types, customers, and production locations. As much as this approach adds complexity, it also mitigates risk. Metal Shark also competes internationally. Allard explains, “We export a great deal, with FMS being a key portion of that, but certainly not all. We are blessed with dozens of repeat international buyers. Our use of technology has helped us bridge the gap in cost, but at the end of the day the customers buy the product for the quality and service.”
For Allard, the work is an ongoing effort. Looking to the future, Metal Shark continues to push and rely on modern software and management tools to organize the operations. The automation of cut file and drawing creation continues, as does IoT implementation, such as cloud-connected welding machines. And, says Allard firmly, “Robotic welding, and other more advanced manufacturing techniques, will be the only way for US yards to retain any competitiveness in the world shipbuilding arena.”
This article first appeared in MarineNews' annual MN100 edition, which features the very best individuals and companies in the workboat, brown water, shallow draft sectors.