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Big project a part of busy times at expanding All American Marine

Bellingham boat builder building Tesla for the sea

The M/V Enhydra, a 600-passenger hybrid electric boat is being built at All American Marine's new facility in Bellingham, Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017. The boat builder says the 128-foot vessel will be the largest lithium-ion hybrid electric passenger
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The M/V Enhydra, a 600-passenger hybrid electric boat is being built at All American Marine's new facility in Bellingham, Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017. The boat builder says the 128-foot vessel will be the largest lithium-ion hybrid electric passenger

Employees at All American Marine gathered to mark the beginning of a major project, but in many ways the celebration represented an important new phase for the longtime company.

Representatives from a variety of companies attended the ceremonial start of construction for the M/V Enhydra on Wednesday. When finished sometime next spring, Enhydra will be a 128-foot ferry providing tours around San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge for the Red and White Fleet. All American officials said it will be the largest hybrid electrical passenger vessel of this type in the U.S., partially operating on lithium-ion batteries. It will carry up to 600 passengers.

For Tom Escher, president of Red and White Fleet, the new boat is part of an evolution for his company. Its current fleet is made of steel, while the Enhydra will have an aluminum hull. The potential environmental benefits also played a role in choosing the boat’s design, he said.

“It’s new for us, and we trust their judgment on this,” Escher said, referring to All American Marine. He added the boat’s design “will have a major impact on the maritime industry.”

85 number of employees All American Marine plans to have in early 2018, nearly double its workforce prior to moving into the new facility.

The ceremony Wednesday also marks a busy period for All American Marine, which includes adding workers. The company currently has seven contracts that are either signed or in the process of being finalized, keeping workers busy into 2019, said Matt Mullett, the company’s CEO.

All American has grown in recent months from 43 employees to 65. Mullett is planning to have 85 employees in place by early 2018, nearly doubling the size of the workforce the company had when it was at a smaller facility in Fairhaven.

Other projects All American Marine is working on or expected to start include a high-speed 72-foot whale-watching vessel; a 64-foot research vessel; two low-wake ferries, and a 500-passenger boat for Argosy Cruises.

A major factor in All American’s growth is the company’s move into its 57,000-square-foot facility on Hilton Avenue earlier this year – it has allowed All American to pursue larger projects. It also happens to be a time when demand for the types of boats the company builds has never been stronger, Mullett said.

Bellingham boat builder All American Marine moved a 125-foot boat hull from its Fairhaven facility to Squalicum Harbor Friday. The boat hull will be moved up Roeder Avenue early Saturday into All American's new building.

For Red and White Fleet, the addition of the M/V Enhydra will allow the company to better handle the peak summer season tour and also do more charter trips, said Joe Burgard, vice president of operations for the company.

Escher is anxious to add the new vessel to Red and White, but understands the complexity of the project will keep the company busy.

“One reason we chose All American Marine was because of their crew,” Escher said. “You can compare them to Swiss watchmakers.”

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz

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