The Tacoma shipyard is serving as the construction site for a new class of Navy patrol boat.

SAFE Boats International, based in Bremerton, is building five 78-foot Mark 6 patrol boats in the shipyard after moving into vacant facilities there last August. The company's $30 million contract with the United States Navy calls for the five boats to be built over three years, with the Navy holding an option for a sixth vessel.

The new warships will be the largest aluminum watercraft ever built by SAFE Boats. The sheer size of the boats make land transportation unfeasible, so the company decided to build the boats in Tacoma rather than its manufacturing site in Bremerton, approximately two miles from the Sound.

“We wanted to stay in the region,” said Bryan McConaughy, spokesperson for SAFE Boats. “That was very important to us, and also, Tacoma has some very pertinent facilities that were going to be needed for this particular project. You're looking at a 78-foot-long boat. … It's just way too tall, way too wide, way too big, way too heavy (to move by land). It was not going to be possible to transport it from our Bremerton facility to the water.”

McConnaughy also cited the proximity of the shipyard to suppliers and contractors that may be beneficial to the Mark 6 project.

“The Port of Tacoma is really trying hard to create a maritime industry out in their port, and so we're next to people who have similar objectives,” McConaughy said. “We can help each other.”

The company is already employing 40 workers at the shipyard site, with an additional 20 at its Tacoma offices, said McConaughy.

“We transferred a bunch from our Bremerton operation, but we've also been pretty active in hiring for that Tacoma site exactly,” he said. “Specifically for this contract, we are hoping to have a full staff of about 75 down there.”

The company hopes to reach that full staff figure by spring of 2013, McConaughy said. A job fair is being planned for late January to add another 15 skilled workers.