Ship Shape

Harwood Marine

Situated at the mouth of the Clarence River on Harwood Island in Northern New South Wales, Harwood Marine is an Australian owned and managed company specialising in shipbuilding, marine construction, project management, design and engineering. Nearby towns include Yamba and Iluka, and Harwood’s facilities have easy access to major transport routes including the Pacific highway and the Grafton Railway.

The company also has offices in the Philippines and has worked extensively on projects in the country.

Harwood Marine’s location makes it optimal for shipbuilding operations. The original Harwood Slipway and Engineering Company wisely constructed a slipway at the company’s present site in 1969 to service the marine vessels of the cane and fishing industries in the area as well as racing yacht design and construction. Through the 1970s and 1980s, numerous Australian Navy and Army vessels were serviced at the site for refits and repairs. Tugs and barges were also constructed as new builds as well as yachts and cargo vessels.

The current owners of Harwood Marine have had a working association with the site since 1979. Eventually, company owners purchased the property in 1992 and in 2006, the slipway was extended to a 2,500 tonne capacity. Additional facilities onsite include a 100m and 55m deepwater wharf, a 200 tonne slipway, a fully equipped 50m x 15m main engineering workshop for metal fabrication and machining, a 10 tonne overhead crane, 22 tonne crane and cherry picker, a 18m x 30m aluminium shed fully equipped for aluminium fabrication, a 31m x 25m abrasive blasting and spray painting, and a shed with a Protoblast chamber for blasting and spray painting. Harwood’s facility received an Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Approved Audit in 2011 and is a Germanischer Recent Activities Lloyd (GL) certified workshop. The size of the facility and its properties make the company well equipped to build and repair a variety of ship sizes.

Harwood Marine has a number of services to accommodate the diverse needs of its clients. These include marine engineering, design services, project management, marine survey, welding (GL Certified), aluminium and steel fabrication, in-water repair services, marine electrical, ultrasonic testing, high-pressure abrasive blasting, painting, superyacht service and refits, diesel and mechanical overhauls, hydraulic engineering, and 24-hour response service. In the Philippines, Harwood Marine offers engineering services, design, project management, marine survey, welding, and aluminium and steel fabrication.

Michael Talbot, Manager of Business Development & Marketing, recently shared with us how the company has become a leader in the Asia-Pacific shipbuilding industry.“We have all of our trades in-house,” Mr Talbot explains, whereas “a lot of our competitors outsource work to contractors.”

Mr Talbot also cites the location along the Clarence River as an advantage – being far from the hustle and bustle of Brisbane and Sydney, but halfway between the two cities, helps to attract a wide range of trade and business. “We’re not too far from the mines in Queensland and our location has a large amount of space, and we own our facilities, so we do not pay slip rental rates like other companies have to,” he says. “As a result, we also offer a better hourly rate.”

The expertise of the company’s directors and managers in the marine industry has also driven Harwood Marine’s growth. “Our current Managing Director [Ross Roberts] has been a director of Harwood Marine since 1994,” says Mr Talbot. “Under his leadership, our capacity has been increased to service a number of vessels. Our slipway allows us to take larger vessels than our competitors and we’ve implemented environmentally friendly practices such as recycling blasting materials.”

In fact, most of Harwood’s managers have at least 30 to 35 years of expertise in shipping industry. “Our General Manager [Gio Cervella] is a former Class II chief engineer on cruise ships in US and Europe,” shares Mr Talbot. “The skills and knowledge he brings are key factors in projects coming to us. Our clients know if they need an answer on shipbuilding or repair, he can give it to them. Gio’s knowledge of the industry is second to none.”

The company maintains extensive training programs to keep its workers up to date on the latest standards and certifications. The company is ISO 9001 certified and continuously updates its efficiency and quality assurance. “We work closely with TAFE New South Wales to see what type of skills and programs are available to upskill workers. Currently, we have 13 apprentices, making up one-third of our workforce, which is a massive number for our company. We feel that this keeps young people in our area employed with the skills they need as early as possible.”

Harwood Marine is involved in a number of large-scale projects throughout Australia and Asia. Some examples include two 23m aluminium research catamarans built for the Philippine Government and 11m Aluminium Line / Transfer Boat for a client in PNG. In the Moreton Bay Region, the company refurbished a ferry in Minjerribah for parent company Stradbroke Ferries 50th Anniversary in the area. The company also recently completed a 20m excavator barge for another company, as well as trackable barges that are linked together via identification numbers.

“Truckable barges are built a lot for the mining industry,” Mr Talbot explains. “We built some for Brisbane over the years and there have been lots of inquiries, because they do well in flat water and can be deployed in two to three weeks.”

Harwood Marine has also been appointed by R & D Engineering Inc., Japan, as the Wing Air Induction Pipe (WAIP) sales agent for Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia. The WAIP is a device used in shipbuilding for microbubble generation, reducing frictional resistance, and reducing power requirements up to 15 per cent. This technology can be installed when a ship is dry docked and only requires a small amount of exterior power.

Even with this extensive portfolio of services, Mr Talbot says the company has encountered a number of challenges, particularly from its competitors in the shipbuilding industry. “Pricing from Asian shipbuilders is competitive, though the quality is not as good as what we do; but most companies are looking at the bottom line, so convincing our clients that spending a little more than they planned will save them on repairs in the long run.”

However, he explains that there is an advantage to ships built by cheaper competitors. “Repairs are done a lot quicker overseas, so we work on them earlier than companies anticipated because the quality of shipbuilding wasn’t as good as what we do, so they wind up coming to our shipyard to get their ships up to scratch.”

Having high standards and operating with integrity is a large part of Harwood Marine’s success, and Mr Talbot says that the principles of its management as well as its location play a part in that. “We’re a small community, so if someone gets burned, bad word of mouth spreads quickly. We believe in treating our employees with dignity and respect and our ethics are of the highest quality. We have a low turnover and we like to keep our good workers for a long period of time. As a result, customers know what they will get from us because of our consistency.”

Harwood Marine has a number of ambitious plans for the future, some of which involve the surrounding infrastructure, including rezoning 40 acres of land next to the company’s slipway in New South Wales for marine industrial operations. “We’re speaking to investors in the next 12 months to invest to build wharves and fabrication facilities and hardstands.”

There are also plans to build a new bridge, 2km upriver from the shipyard. This $1 billion project will take three to five years to build and Mr Talbot says that the company is looking to become an essential part of the project when it commences next year after government bidding and proposals for the project are complete. “We want to put the best case forward that we’re the ideal flood free location for marine services they may need to use as the bridge is built.”

Since 1984, Harwood Marine has provided high quality shipbuilding services for its clients. The company operates with integrity and with quality in mind and servicing a diverse clientele guarantees its growth and success in the future.

“We’re a hardworking company that takes the chances that are presented to us and will take calculated risks to better our company and our employees. We are employee focused, and our aim is to provide a living for local tradesmen in community as much as we can. We live in an amazing area and want to stay here. All along, it’s been about how we can operate a successful shipyard in a beautiful part of the world rather than the rat race of the cities.”

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June 21, 2018, 6:35 AM AEST