AWARDS 2022 | Best Small FiFi Boat – Nawi 1 – The Whiskey Project Group

Best Small FiFi Boat – Nawi 1 (Photo: Yamba Welding and Engineering)
Best Small FiFi Boat – Nawi 1 (Photo: Yamba Welding and Engineering)

While primarily designed as a fire fighting support vessel for the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Australian state of New South Wales, this craft is perhaps better described as an incident response workboat.

With its landing craft format as well as firefighting gear, this compact vessel can carry light cargoes and up to ten people. Two simple outboard motors offer up to 37 knots top speed as well as comfortable, economical cruising at 23 knots. She is a truly versatile craft.

"Partnering with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to develop this unique multi-purpose utility craft was a wonderful experience, and in particular in our minds, it's one of the first offshore capable, light landing craft with good planning speeds and crew comfort," Ryan Carmichael, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of the Whiskey Project Group, told Baird Maritime. "Nawi 1 has a bit of a cult-following in its area of operation and is colloquially known as the 'Yamba Ute'. This has led to the further development of our range of planing hull utility and landing craft for commercial, emergency services, and defence clients as well as leisure adventurers."

Carmichael added that there are always trade-offs with new complex design briefs like Nawi 1, but the Whiskey Project's design team has a wealth of experience in similar projects and are known for watercraft that exceed users' requirements while being simple to manufacture and maintain.

"Specifically, the Nawi 1 design brief had an emphasis on optimised performance and rough water capability, while supporting a variety of payloads and configurations and the ability to operate in confined and shallow inland waterways. This experience has helped us improve our landing craft and utility range, specifically in terms of techniques for supporting un-beaching with heavy payloads on a shallow gradient beach."

Carmichael believes the Whiskey Project is driving an industry trend in offering ergonomics, shock mitigation, noise reduction, and crew comfort features as a baseline, not an option.

"Whilst operator protection is not currently directly regulated, commercial operators are obliged under various workplace health and safety regulations to ensure a safe workplace, and it's anticipated that these will soon make their way into the industry bodies."

The year 2022 saw exponential growth across all three sectors of the business, namely: defence; commercial and rescue; and high end leisure. Carmichael claims that, following a number of new key government contracts, the group is now the largest supplier of rescue and government agency watercraft across Australia and New Zealand. There was also growth in the group's defence sector, and the previous year also saw the launch of a new high-end series of Naiad boats.

"Our group has been engaged in a number of opportunities over the past 12 months to develop solutions to lower emissions in our commercial workboat fleets across Australia and New Zealand, including hybrid- electric and hydrogen options," Carmichael told Baird Maritime when asked to comment on the future of the workboat industry. "This is certainly an area the industry is trending towards, but there is a lot of work with the regulators still to be achieved. We are also working closely with uncrewed and autonomous surface vessel developments, and have a number of live projects running with these capabilities integrated."

As for the Australian workboat industry, Carmichael said the last few years have seen an increased emphasis on local industry content, and the next few years will be no different. There will be a rise in demand for Australian industrial capabilities to support more local manufacturing and local jobs growth. This applies to boatbuilders and others across the supply chain.

"With such fragile and expensive supply chains, the more we can source locally, the better the end product as well as whole of life support can be offered. This is particularly notable in government agency and defence programs that are forecast over the next three to five years."

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