On October 22, 2015 a group of council members and guests were hosted by SAFE Boats International for a tour of their Bremerton and Tacoma facilities. SAFE stands for Secure All-around Flotation Equipped, which describes the boats that they manufacture.
We were welcomed and given a very comprehensive and interesting introduction by CEO Dennis Morris. He told us about how the Bremerton location builds boats from 23-65 feet in length and has 250 employees whereas the Tacoma location builds boats up to 85 feet in length with 125 employees. The Tacoma location not only provides necessary additional space but by being located near water the large new boats can easily be put in for necessary sea trials upon completion.
SAFE Boats builds purpose designed special performance boats for law enforcement, military and all levels of government world wide. They are not recreational, and at present there are 2000 SAFE Boats in service with 5 million operating hours…all without a problem. SAFE Boats makes a special effort to hire veterans and among a number of good reasons to work there is that employees are given the opportunity to ride along on a sea trial so as to experience the product that they built.
It usually takes about 3 months from start to finish to build a SAFE Boat and all are built to meet customer requirements. Large sheets of aluminum are marked, laser cut, bent and welded together and then various components such as wiring, radars and radios, engines, etc are added to complete the boat. One type of seat made for rough riding costs up to $12,000 each!
Our tour at Bremerton concluded with a walk around the factory floor and going aboard one of the largest of the boats they build there. A SAFE Boats ball cap was presented to each participant. Lunch at the Bremerton Airport restaurant followed with the Tacoma tour immediately following.
Tacoma SAFE boat tour
After lunch at the Bremerton Airport diner, we car pooled to the Tacoma SAFE boat manufacturing facility where we were treated to a presentation of the Mk VI Patrol Boat program by Hartwell Champange.
The MK VI patrol boat is the Navy’s next generation patrol boat and will serve as part of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC). The MK VI is the U.S. Navy’s first true patrol boat developed since the 1980’s.
The 85-foot craft has a hull optimized for performance, fuel economy, and firepower. The MK VI is configured with both an ergonomically designed pilothouse and a reconfigurable main deck cabin for a sizeable crew and payload. The boats can reach speeds in excess of 35 knots at full load and can be armed with a variety of crew served and remotely operated weapon systems up to 25mm. The boat has a range in excess of 600 nautical miles and is equipped with a propulsion system consisting of twin diesel engines and waterjets.
They have a contract for 12 of these for the Navy & have completed or mostly completed 5 already. It requires about 41 weeks to construct one of them.
There are 125 employees doing everything from design, logistics, training & manufacturing. There is capacity to build larger boats than the 85 ft ones being built for the Navy currently.
The aluminum arrives in sheets, is laser marked, and then cut with computer guidance. Special machines bend the components into the required shapes and angles. The unique method of aluminum welding contributes to the fine quality of these boats.
Since this is a unique addition to the Navy arsenal, the military is trained about operation, maintaining & repair of them. Many of their components are modular, so they can be unplugged & replaced without major interruption of their mission.
The web site SAFEBOATS.com includes a link to many fun & exciting videos of these marvelous boats in action.
What a joy to see this great American made product serving our American Military!
We are grateful to Mr Champagne & to Ms Cindy McFarland for hosting us. They are a real treasure & credit to the company