Wanganui firm buoyed by major boatbuilding contract
by John Maslin
Wanganui boat builder Q-West is bucking the gloomy financial trends with news it has picked up another major contract.
And company director Myles Fothergill said with other work on its books, it may be taking on more staff later in the year to handle the work.
The latest boost for the Castlecliff boatyard comes with a decision by the police to place an order for a launch to replace Wellington's 20-year-old Lady Elizabeth III.
It is the same design as the $3 million 18.5-metre aluminium, high-speed catamaran Q-West built for Auckland's maritime police.
"We'll be strengthening the front end of the Lady Elizabeth IV because of the seas it will be working in.
The Cook Strait is one of the toughest stretches of water in the world," Mr Fothergill told the Chronicle.
The announcement from Police Minister Judith Collins is another part of a 10-year contract the Wanganui company had nailed down with the police.
Mr Fothergill said this new boat and other prospects could see Q-West taking on more staff later in the year.
He said trading conditions were tight in his industry, as with most others, "but this contract is good for us, given the economy is pretty wobbly at the moment".
He said it wasn't so much his company doing things a lot differently but just being smarter about how it did its business.
He said securing the contract to supply NZ Police for the next 10 years at least showed how hard his company had worked to establish good relationships with its customers.
"But the work we've got was secured before the world realised it was in a credit crisis.
"And the types of customers we've got are pressing ahead with their needs.
"Our business have long lead-in times between securing a contract and work actually starting," he said.
Mr Fothergill said the inquiries his company was fielding were not all offshore.
"Although the dollar is very favourable for US and the Middle East buyers, people are pretty tight with their money at the moment."
But he said the prospects for other boat builders were not as promising.
"We're starting to see boatyards up north hitting the wall and there will be a lot of that happening this year for sure.
"There are several yards in Auckland and Northland that are finishing work off and have got no more orders ahead."
Mr Fothergill said Q-West had work on track for the rest of the year and the Wellington Police launch pushed that schedule through to the middle of 2010.
"That's 50 percent of what we need so we just need to find the rest of that work. And we've got some really good inquiries coming in."
His yard is working on the replacement of one of the Kaikoura Whale Watch boats.
That was a boat Q-West built in 1999.
"The second boat was launched in 2000, and they're planning to have that second boat replaced toward the end of this year.
"If we get that, for delivery in October next year, then that would be close to all the work we need meantime," he said.
The yard was finishing off a crew boat for Meridian Energy that will work on Lake Manapouri and that was due for delivery in April this year.
"We've recently begun construction of a 14m research vessel for the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) due for delivery at the end of this year," Mr Fothergill said.