Aluminum Chambered Boats Is Targeting U.S. Recreational Boaters - 04/08/2009

Several years ago when Aluminum Chamber Boats landed first one, then another USCG contract, it changed the way the Coast Guard patrols the U.S. coastline. Gone were the rigid-hull inflatables made by Zodiac, and entered a boat that looked like a RIB, but was all aluminum. Later the U.S. Marine Corps placed a large order. Because the little Bellingham, WA boat builder was landing so much military business -- overseen by some of the toughest procuring agents on the planet -- recreational boaters across the country began asking about ACB. Now it is targeting the recreational national market and offering some intriguing alternatives to traditional fiberglass boats.

ACB 1 ACB 2 ACB 3
An ACB-built 21’ USCG patrol boat designed for high-speed inshore work. An ACB-built 26’ Law Enforcement Vessel (LEV) Center Console model now seen all over the U.S. Shown above is one of ACB's Sport Fish Series (26')

Bolstered by government contracts, ACB is planning on making a strategic play for a sophisticated and demanding niche in the boating community: boaters who are looking for a boat that can take the abuse for which aluminum is famous, want low operating and maintenance costs, a vessel that is virtually unsinkable, and don’t mind a boat that does not look the same as all of the rest in the marina.

Because aluminum is both lightweight and durable ACB boats can be efficiently operated. Adding to that is the company’s well-know reputation for building safe boats. In fact, from the beginning ACB has placed safety as its top priority and company literature states that the company is “…committed to delivering the world’s safest working boat to our recreational, commercial and government customers.” Its website says, “Our mission is simple: to bring every customer home safely – hit a log, tear the hull, but stay afloat and stay alive.” The company says that its boats are “virtually unsinkable.”

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A 32’ ACB cabin cruiser.

 

Built for the Pacific Northwest

 

Many of ACB’s customers over the years have been small commercial fishermen in the Pacific Northeast all the way up to Alaska where the seas can get angry, passages are not well charted and the waterways are strewn with logs. In situations such as those a premium is placed on safety, durability and low operating costs. All of that was an ideal proving ground for the development of designs and concepts that would well serve military applications.

 

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A 30’ ACB utility boat that was a patrol boat and tow boat.

 

 

Military Acceptance

 

In June, 2007, ACB was awarded a $9.88 million contract to provide the United States Coast Guard with 47 Cutter Boat-Large boats, a 24-foot rigid hull inflatable designed as a support craft for Coast Guard Cutters.

ACB has partnered with Northrop Grumman to build a littoral vessel. This design is 41 feet long with a 9-foot-11-inch beam and a draft of only 28 inches. Powered by two Cummins QSC 8.3-liter, 540 HP turbocharged diesel engines, the Joint Multimission Expeditionary Craft has a top speed of 48 miles per hour. With a crew of four, the new boat has room for another two observers, and depending on the mission, can also ferry a 14-member combat team or various cargoes up rivers or streams.

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ACB calls this their 28’ “Extreme Sportfisherman.” Note rod holders aft.

 

With the volume of military and government work so high, currently just 25 percent of the company’s revenues — about $18 million in 2007 — comes from commercial and recreational watercraft. ACB plans on changing that ratio.

 

Recreational Boats

 

For now, ACB is targeting two broad categories of recreational boats: fishing boats for rivers, offshore and coastal work, and “expedition” cabin cruising boats. It has be building these boats for years for the Northwest market and now with its new-found reputation, will be introducing them to the rest of the nation and to international customers.

 

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A 32’ ACB “Bow Loader” that is used in Juneau, Alaska.


At this time the company does not have dealers and virtually all of their boats are sold factory direct. A look through their website pages shows that they are open to all sorts of design ideas and different applications. For example, they have built what amount to small head boats for fishing guides along the Pacific coast, as well as river boats with jet drives and cabin cruisers with a V-berth forward for coastal cruising, and even one-vehicle ferry boats ideal for transport to a private island.


For more information about ACB boats, visit their website…


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