20th anniversary celebrated in style

The Wheelyboat Trust exhibited its Coulam Wheelyboat V20 … just one of 182 wheelchair-friendly craft it has supplied
The Wheelyboat Trust exhibited its Coulam Wheelyboat V20 … just one of 182 wheelchair-friendly craft it has supplied
Ribcraft floated a 7.8m aluminium-hulled wheelhouse RIB and 6.8m GRP rescue RIB in the marina
Ribcraft floated a 7.8m aluminium-hulled wheelhouse RIB and 6.8m GRP rescue RIB in the marina

Seawork International celebrated its 20th anniversary in style. For three sweltering summer days, more than 630 exhibitors networked and did business with around 7,000 visiting marine professionals; including naval delegations from New Zealand, Bolivia, China and Malaysia, writes Peter Poland.

New equipment, vessels and products galore were exhibited together with a lively conference programme. ‘Meet the Buyer’ sessions – including one with the MOD - were also a success.

Moving into one of the many well laid out and sign-posted marquees, I visited the Simrad stand. This company has separate leisure and commercial operations, the latter supplying radar, auto-steering, GPS, AIS, ECDIS and digital chart systems to large vessels. Simrad’s commercial side is expanding fast and Matthew Palmer told me new products were on show at Seawork because ‘we have exhibited and done business here for years.’

David Peach of 3Si – a private equity-backed group that owns safety and survival specialists ISP, Ocean Safety, Revere and Typhoon, said: “It’s our third year at Seawork - an important show for us. ISP’s inflatable lifejackets (Challenger) are also sold to other well know British brands. ISP makes about 120,000 units pa in Bootle. 3Si also runs ‘in field’ servicing. We are expanding our marine portfolio in the UK and Europe so Seawork is important.”

I was surprised to find Hendy at the show; I thought the company was just a car distributor. Wrong. Hendy also distributes FPT (Fiat Power Train), Honda Marine, Yamaha, Lister/Petter and Highfield aluminium-hulled RIBs.

Operations manager Bryan Ede explained Hendy handled leisure and commercial distribution, adding that FRT engines were top sellers in the 30/40m marine market and that certain models were sold to Perkins, Cummins, Caterpillar and Mercedes.

Seaglaze’s sales manager Gary Heath told me: “Seaglaze sales are now 65% commercial market, so Seawork is very important to us. Most boats here at the show have Seaglaze windows.” And he was right. I saw many displaying signs saying ‘Seaglaze windows’.

Many think of Sea Sure as a supplier to the leisure industry. But MD Graham Brown said the commercial market is equally important with business up on last year and good sales leads for new shock mitigating units (shock-absorbing seats) for RIBs and other fast craft. He told me: “as legislation on shock mitigation hots up, I see a big new market there.”


Long-established leisure-industry block and fittings maker Barton Marine was at Seawork for the first time. Sales manager Rob Lyne said Barton already does ‘block and cleat’ business with large commercial non-marine companies with sales now representing a considerable percentage of turnover. "Marine sales represent our core business at Barton Marine representing more than 75% of our turnover. The 25% that is commercial and industrial business is of great importance to Barton – and is definitely a growing market," he said. So the stand at Seawork was to find new leads and contacts. "Business is good and the market is buoyant."

For a take on the RIB market, I visited Ribcraft. This Somerset-based company has a strong track record supplying RIBs for commercial, rescue, police and military uses with 75% of turnover in these sectors. Afloat in the marina were a 6.8m GRP rescue RIB and a 7.8m aluminium-hulled RIB with a neat aluminium wheelhouse that is adaptable to other models in its range. Jason Purvey and Dorian Martin also told me Ribcraft sold a lot of RIBs to the Dutch Police and that the biggest model was 14.5m.

Ben Kerfoot - MD of Liverpool-based MST - told me that MST’s RIB building business was growing and that it also handled ‘in service MOD support’ for all its RIBs (MST and other), involving level three to four maintenance and post design service. Mr Kerfoot added that this kept 50 out of MST’s total workforce of 160 busy.

By way of total contrast, the Wheelyboat Trust exhibited at Seawork for the third time, showing a Coulam Wheelyboat V20. This admirable charity supplies wheelchair-friendly boats for coastal and river use, launching 182 since its inception in 1984. Trust director Andy Beadsley told me a V20 recently delivered to the Young Epilepsy Charity reached 32mph on a lake with nine people on board.

James Gilliam of Halyard said Seawork and METS were the best shows for selling its wares, including RCD-compliant anti-noise and -pollution drives. Halyard’s Wavebrite and Wavestream filters were also selling well.

On the engine front, Barrus - Seawork exhibitors for 20 years - and Yamaha both reported more interest than last year, despite the unhelpful Brexit-induced exchange rates.

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