Sydney-based naval architects One2Three Designs and Hobart HDPE specialist boat builder PFG Marine Group have again combined their considerable talents to produce this very effective and economical RIB patrol boat for a Queensland police organisation.
Designed to be rugged, durable, low maintenance, reliable, safe and seaworthy, the boat also happens to be fast and impressively economical. All in all, the perfect coastal or inshore patrol boat. With twin 150kW outboard motors, the 8.3-metre boat has a top speed of 46 knots and a very impressive cruising range of 200 nm at 30 knots from a 400-litre fuel tank. Shock absorbing seats make such almost seven hour voyages reasonably comfortable for the crew.
The all HDPE construction offers many advantages in terms of durability, easy repair-ability and UV resistance, not to mention cushioning and damage prevention when coming alongside other craft. Finally, many years down the track, the boat is almost completely recyclable.
“The feature that stands out about the RIB is its HDPE construction,” One2Three told Baird Maritime. “It is virtually indestructible, with abrasion and puncturing properties far superior than conventional aluminium and composite vessels of the same weight. HDPE also floats, and even when fully swamped and all buoyant compartments completely flooded, the boat floats level and supports the crew. Being virtually unsinkable, she becomes her own lift raft in the event of major incident.”
The designer further commented about HDPE offering excellent vibration absorption and its being impervious to acids, giving it a softer, quieter ride and a natural antifouling ability. The material, remarkably, also offers some degree of ballistic protection, making the boat ideal for security operations.
Performance-wise, the RIB has also proven to be satisfactory.
“You can feel it instantly upon commencement of your mission,” said PFG Group CEO Robert Inches. “The boat is an extremely stable, mission-ready, and reliable vessel with class-leading handling and manoeuvrability. Innovative design features have maximised available working deck space to allow the execution of an array of operational and safety requirements.
“And with a top speed of 40 knots fully laden at 6,000 rpm, this means operators encountering similar vessels have the upper hand in any pursuit or ‘get out of the dodge’ situation.”
Indeed, the vessel’s hull form and light weight – thanks to its welded construction, allowing strength where needed and weight-saving opportunities in other areas – allow it to perform remarkable manoeuvres while maintaining stability. It is able to perform full-power, full lock turns with zero tendency to roll out or slide while the in-built spray chines along the hull deliver a “dry and soft ride,” as One2Three commented.
The development of the new RIB came at an opportune time, with Australian policymakers having expressed increasing interest in homegrown shipbuilding talent. It was good news for the Hobart-based builder, which also had a very difficult 2020 but managed to stay afloat thanks to the resilience of its workforce and its good standing with customers and suppliers.
“There is a lot of support for thorough policy at the moment to support Australian capability,” said Inches, “which is a really pleasing development of the last few years. I think the pace of change within government can be a challenge with procurement processes at times, presenting an obstacle to getting new concepts in the hands of operators to increase the accuracy of R&D to providing solutions. The real challenge for us at present, though, is determining how we can improve the experience for builders, compliance professionals and customers alike.”
For One2Three, another significant change became evident.
“We’ve been seeing defence and civil authorities reduce their stipulation on a ‘proven’ product and embrace adoption of innovative and cutting edge designs,” the designer told Baird Maritime. “Fortunately for them and for us, Australian designers and builders have long led the world in innovation and frequently demonstrate an ability to successfully commercialise bold and advanced design concepts. Defence and law enforcement agencies are now demanding the advances that are being generated in the commercial sector and asking the question, ‘Why can’t we have that?'”
As a follow-up to this observation, both One2Three and PFG also noted the growing propensity for defence and security operators towards commercial autonomous vessels made from off-the-shelf components as low-cost alternatives to high-specification, military-grade platforms.
“The emergence of new technologies enabling greater scope for unmanned capability are here now and becoming better understood,” commented PFG’s Robert Inches. “I think this will be huge for the way patrol boats and tactical watercraft are operated, especially in defence and security applications. We also see the emergence of modern diesel outboards as less revolutionary perhaps, but still an emerging capability of enhanced technology our customers are keen to embrace.”
PFG added that it foresees more opportunities to do business in 2021, with the market gradually becoming more aware of HDPE and its benefits.
“As Australia’s pre-eminent HDPE boat builder,” Inches told Baird Maritime, “of course we believe adoption of HDPE is here, and a significant development. We are seeing strong signals that the superior properties of HDPE relative to aluminium are real and measurable, and our ability to offer superior operational availability and higher returns on investment, plus the sustainability advantage that comes from our lower carbon footprint and recyclable hull, are becoming widely regarded.”
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