Invercargill boat constructor winning Australian work

Stabicraft Marine managing director Paul Adams, in the company's Invercargill factory, as boat...
Stabicraft Marine managing director Paul Adams, in the company's Invercargill factory, as boat fabrication team leader Ken Stenton works on a vessel for an Australian client. Photo by Allison Beckham.

An Invercargill boat manufacturer is celebrating a $2 million Australian Government supply contract and is confident it will lead to more orders from state and federal agencies across the Tasman.

Eight 6.9m-long ''Supercab'' commercial vessels, each worth about $250,000, left the Stabicraft Marine Ltd factory a month ago, managing director Paul Adams said yesterday.

They were undergoing water tests in Brisbane before being trucked to Darwin to boost the Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Service's fleet, he said.

Carrying a crew of two, they would patrol waters from the Western Australia border to the Queensland border - a coastline of 10,953km - undertaking harbour and remote police operations, search and rescue missions, fisheries enforcement, and marine safety compliance.

It was the latest ''coup'' in a series of builds for Australian agencies over the past six years, Mr Adams said.

''We won our first contract with Australian Customs and Border Protection Service in 2008 and sent more boats to them in 2009 and 2010.

''Now they are using 19.''

Stabicraft vessels were also used in Australia for duties as diverse as coastguard patrols along the Victorian coast, water police patrols in New South Wales, and crocodile relocations for the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission, Mr Adams said.

The breakthrough for his company came when the customs and border protection boats met stringent Australian Maritime Safety Authority standards and the Australian National Standard for Commercial Vessels.

That involved ticking off a long list of requirements, as well as an inspection of the boats and the factory by an Australian naval architect, he said.

''Now we can show we can meet those standards, we are picking up regular contracts with Australian agencies and expect that to increase.''

The Australian agencies also liked Stabicraft's ''all-in-one'' package which included boat, motor, electronics, trailer and after-sales service, he said.

Mr Adams and a business partner who is no longer with the company started Stabicraft 27 years ago, after a request from two paua divers operating from Bluff.

''Their rubber inflatable was proving unreliable ... in Foveaux Strait, so we came up with the idea of replicating a rubber pontoon in aluminium.''

While new shapes and designs had been added over the years, all vessels still had the same pontoon safety collar and flotation chamber design, which Mr Adams said added rigidity and stability.

''Our boats [are] very well respected globally, as capable off-shore work vessels. We design Stabicrafts to handle tough seas with confidence. It's great to see large organisations like the Northern Territory Police Fire and Emergency Services recognising this.''

The company exported its first boats 26 years ago, to Canada, and has sent vessels as far away as Alaska and Burma.

More boats were now sold overseas annually than in New Zealand and there was plenty of work to keep the staff of 54 busy.

That was pleasing, he said, as 13 staff were made redundant in 2009 because of the global financial crisis and depressed sales.

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