Fast Ferries, Liferaft Systems, Wooden Boats
Boatbuilding began in Tasmania within days of European settlement in 1803. The first vessel was a wooden skiff whose builders could not have imagined the giant, high-speed 120-metre catamarans that Tasmanians now export to the world. One company, Incat Tasmania, has built 40 per cent of the world’s fleet of large-scale, fast multi-hull ferries. Incat’s only Australian competitor, Austral Shipping, acquired a shipyard in the state in 2007. Other ship-builders find niches in the design and construction of smaller-scale vessels that seek to emulate Incat’s cutting-edge technology.
As Incat’s Prince of Wales Bay shipyard expanded in Hobart’s suburbs in the 1990s, supply companies grew up around it. This group of businesses has now evolved into the Tasmanian Maritime Network that can provide a one-stop shop for ship builders who want access to the latest technology and quality products and services, from training the construction workforce to fitting out the finished ship. Members of the network, most of whom grew as suppliers to Incat, are significant exporters in their own right. Liferaft Systems Australia, for example is a world leader in the supply of inflatable lifeboats and ship-evacuation systems. Muir Engineering produces winches and windlasses for m ega yachts around the world, while Moonraker Australia supplies high-performance antennae to a number of the world’s navies.
The oceans wash around Tasmanian life. The Sydney-Hobart yacht race is the state’s most important annual sporting event. The people preserve traditional wooden boat-building skills and celebrate them with an international Wooden Boat Festival every two years. Sailing, cruising and fishing are integral parts of island life. So is the building of boats. Marine industry excellence comes naturally in Tasmania.