Incat’s Week of Awards!

Winner of 2008 Tasmanian Export Awards
Interferry Honours Incat Founder with Person of Distinction Award

It has been a week of honour for Tasmania’s high speed ship builder Incat as its achievements in excellence and innovation were rewarded by not one, but two prestigious awards.

The Aurora Energy 2008 Tasmanian Export Award for Manufacturing was awarded to Incat, not only in recognition of being positioned at the cutting edge of technology, but also for the value of its exports to the Tasmanian economy.

“In today’s highly competitive export market, world-class customer service and high levels of product quality and consistency are essential,” says Dr Peter Davis, CEO of Aurora Energy.

In 2007-08, Incat delivered two 112 metre ships to the Asian market. It also converted two vessels for delivery to commercial operators on the Isle of Man and Trinidad & Tobago. In addition, two previously chartered vessels were sold to operators in the United Kingdom.

Also last week, Incat’s Founder and Chairman, Robert Clifford, was named as only the second holder of the Interferry Person of Distinction award.

The trade association accolade, which is not an annual award, recognises Robert Clifford’s leading role in the development of large vehicle-carrying aluminium catamarans, a sector in which the Tasmania-based company claims almost 40% of the world market.

The award presentation to Robert Clifford was made during Interferry’s 33rd annual conference in Hong Kong – coinciding with his paper on Incat’s first two Evolution One12 vessels, the world’s biggest diesel-powered high-speed catamarans, for service in Japan.

International Maritime Organization secretary-general Efthimios Mitropoulos became first holder of the award in 2006 for his global leadership in promoting passenger ship safety. An update on the IMO/Interferry joint initiative to improve ferry safety in developing nations will be among further highlights of the conference.

In the latest citation, Interferry CEO Len Roueche says: “Robert Clifford has been at the forefront of high-speed catamaran technology for more than 30 years and, in terms of large vehicle carriers, could certainly be called the father of the concept. He was almost a lone voice for many years but has since seen his vision embraced by major operators on every continent.”

Mr Clifford said he was “deeply honoured and very surprised” to be nominated by his industry peers, adding: “I have always believed that fast ferries would have an ever-increasing place in the transport scene, and it is pleasing to see the general acceptance that has made this a reality.”

Arguing the economic and environmental case for fast ferries, he points out: “On some routes they burn less fuel than heavy steel ships as their hulls are made of material about half the weight of steel. This allows them either to be lower powered for the same speed, or to travel faster and make more revenue crossings. More crossings on short journeys allow fast ships to run with lower crew numbers and crews live ashore. This changes the whole financial equation.

“As for emissions, fast ferries already conform to standards that ships burning heavy fuel still have to face. There is still much that needs to be done to improve efficiency, but I have some ideas…”

Mike Grainger, managing director of Liferaft Systems Australia and an Interferry director, observes: “Robert’s lateral thinking approach is quite remarkable. He is able to envisage the highs and lows of most situations well in advance and is constantly looking at ways to improve the industry. He is a true entrepreneur who has set the benchmark for performance and design.”

Mr Clifford was an apprentice printer and fisherman before becoming a ferry/tour boat operator and boat builder through companies he formed nearly 40 years ago in the Tasmanian capital Hobart.

Evolving from these origins, the Incat group produced its first high-speed catamaran in 1977 before unveiling a cutting edge Wave Piercing Catamaran prototype in 1983. The first commercial WPC followed two years later and was 28 metres long.

Continuous development has seen the range grow to include the latest generation Evolution One12 class – 11,000gt, 112 metre giants that can carry up to 1,200 passengers and assorted vehicles at speeds of up to 47 knots.

The sale of the first two in the series to Japan’s Higashi Nihon Ferry (HNF) represents Incat’s largest-ever export order. Operating at 40 knots on a 61-nautical mile crossing between the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido, the vessels have been configured with a capacity of 800 passengers and either 355 cars or 450m of truck lanes and 193 cars.

Interferry conference delegates heard Mr Clifford analyse the vessels’ performance in a joint presentation with HNF’s Mr Y. Sumiya.