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Clayton builder crafts boat for Dubai-based oil company

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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CLAYTON — Unpainted, simple and fast. That's how Brian L. Leishman, the management consultant at American Metalcraft Inc., sums up the 241/2-foot "tendering boat" the custom boat manufacturing company has built for Dragon Oil, an oil company headquartered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.


"They were looking for fast, crude boats which would carry personnel from coastlines to drilling operations," Mr. Leishman said.


The boat is made to assist maintenance workers at an oil rig in the Caspian Sea, he said.


"Custom built means that it is built specifically for the customer's needs," Mr. Leishman said. "The purpose of this boat is to be deployed in the Caspian Sea and let scuba divers do their maintenance work on the platform."


That is why, he said, the boat has a small helm and a large work space and why its aluminum body will be left unpainted.


"The boat is not painted because the work environment of the boat, the Caspian Sea, is just contaminated with crude oil and they would have to repaint it every so often," Mr. Leishman said. "We used aluminum because aluminum is the way to go. It lasts longer, is durable and, ultimately, it costs less. They might dent or bend but never break."


"Another thing about this boat is that it uses a 170-horsepower Australian diesel engine," he said.


Mr. Leishman said he chose an Australian engine over a U.S. one because Australia is closer to Dubai in case it needs to be repaired.


"We tried to keep things simple. In this case, the more complicated the boat gets, there is less work space and more ways in which something can go wrong. This boat here needs little or no maintenance," he said.


The boat took 1,317 hours to complete and will be shipped to Dubai in a few weeks.


"We still need to do 35 hours of sea trial to see if everything works," Mr. Leishman said.


This is not the first time the company has built a boat for Dubai.


"Our first connection with Dubai was five years ago when the Dubai government contacted us for fireboats," Mr. Leishman said. "They approached us first because they, as they say it, only want the best."


"Cultural differences were the major barriers in dealing with people in the Middle East," he said. "It was difficult picking topics and staying away from issues that are sensitive in that culture. But it has been a great learning experience. They were very good in letting you know when you inadvertently stepped on a toe."


The company has built three high-speed fireboats for the Dubai government so far.


"We are the only manufacturer in the area for high-speed fireboats," he said. "Almost 25 percent of high-speed fireboats internationally are built by us."


American Metalcraft's parent company, Metalcraft Marine Inc., Kingston, Ontario, has been building boats for 21 years, Mr. Leishman said.


Like the high-speed fireboat it built for the Clayton Volunteer Fire Department Inc. recently, most of its products stay in the United States and Canada.


"A great number of our products stay in the U.S. but we also make boats for Japan, Australia and Nigeria. Twenty-five harbor patrol boats we made are currently serving in the conflict in Iraq," he said.


Mr. Leishman said the company's president, Tom Wroe, and vice president, Leon M. Rusho Jr., want their company to stay small and local and he anticipates more local employment in the next three years.


"Since June 2007, business has tripled," he said. "We keep the cost down by hiring locally. It's good for everybody."


American Metalcraft started in Clayton in 2000 when its parent company decided to have a satellite company in the United States.


Last summer, the two companies officially merged and now share sales and design departments. The increase in business is because the company's operation has become more efficient, unified and simultaneous, Mr. Leishman said.


"Our primary focus, on the American side, is boats under 35 feet," he said. "We take care of smaller boats so we can free up Kingston to work on larger, 60- to 70-feet ones."


The next project Mr. Leishman is looking forward to is building an environmentally friendly boat.


"We want to build a boat with solar panels and hybrid diesel engines to cut back on fuel use. It'll be a fun project," he said.

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