$650,000 Detroit police patrol boat named after slain officer dry docked

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — A $650,000 Detroit Police Harbormaster patrol boat named for a slain police officer is in dry dock amid a lawsuit claiming three companies saddled city taxpayers with a defective product.

In July 2018, Detroit police officials christened a new 36-foot patrol boat "Shark" to honor longtime master diver Sgt. Kenneth "Shark" Steil. It was the Harbormaster's first new vessel since 1986.

Steil died on Sept. 17, 2016, five days after he was wounded by a shotgun blast while investigating a man who had shot his father and another man.

The badge of Captain Kenneth 'Shark' Steil in front of the boat named after him.

Steil died the day he was planning to go home from the hospital. At the time of his death, he was assigned to the 9th Precinct Special Operations team, although on Wednesdays he still dived for the department. 

According to the lawsuit the city filed May 3 in Wayne County Circuit Court, the boat has had one problem after another, starting the day it was delivered.

Named as defendants in the 77-page suit are Florida-based Brunswick Commercial & Government Products, Konrad Marine of Wisconsin and Ontario's Metal Craft Marine.

According to the lawsuit, the boat was manufactured by Brunswick while the outdrives were made by Konrad. Metal Craft Marine installed Konrad's parts and other equipment and accessories ordered by the city.

After sending out multiple bids, the city in November 2017 purchased the aluminum Boston Whaler boat for $650,000, the lawsuit said. The boat was delivered on June 25, 2018, according to the lawsuit.

City officials did not respond to a request for comment Friday. Phone calls to Brunswick Commercial & Government Products and Konrad Marine were not returned.

Bob Clark, a partner at Metal Craft Marine, said he spoke with Detroit police officials last week to hammer out their concerns. When reached by telephone Friday, Clark said he wasn't aware his company had been named in the lawsuit.

"I think our name is just on the suit because we were involved in the process, but as far as I know, everything was fine between us and the Detroit police," he said. "I just talked to them, and my understanding was that they were suing Konrad."

According to the lawsuit, the problems with the boat started immediately after the city bought it.

"On the day of delivery, the city experienced hard starting of the engines," the suit said. Other alleged problems included "significant corrosion on the outdrives."

A Konrad employee in March 2019 replaced the outdrives, although the lawsuit said the corrosion on the outdrives returned the next year.

Clark said he told Konrad representatives his company would no longer install their products until they addressed the issues. Clark said the problems with Konrad go back months.

"We thought we'd brokered a deal with Konrad to fix these drives last August," Clark said. "Then, we told them if they want any future business, they have to look after the customers."

There were other problems with the boat involving parts from manufacturers not named in the lawsuit. 

"On December 3, 2018, the city discovered that the port side engine was leaking oil," the suit said. "After the city notified (the engine manufacturer) Performance Diesel, the boat was taken out of service to have the engine replaced."

 After multiple problems and repairs, the boat finally was pulled out of the water in July 2021.

"Because of the excessive corrosion on the outdrives, the city is presently unable to use the boat," the suit said.


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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN