Cairns-based Tropical Reef Shipyards (TRS) has just won a major Australian Defence Force contract with a lot of help from local businesses.
The contract will see TRS build seven new 7.5 metre Army Safety Watercraft (ASW) vessels at its Cairns shipyard with manufacturing expected to start as early as April.
TRS started business in 1977 and boasts the largest slipway anywhere north of Brisbane to Dampier in WA, capable of lifting up to 100 metres long and 3000 tonnes.
The company has built its reputation by specialising in ship repair and maintenance, so the move into construction is a major leap.
“We have a highly developed site, so we’ve been looking at other ways to diversify our business,” TRS Business Development Manager Andrew Wagner said.
“We’ve built good ties with local subcontractors over the years as well as strong relationships with the navy, and we really wanted to put together a local package and make this a great story for Cairns – and it’s paid off.”
TRS will use local fabricators BME NQ to help build the all-aluminium craft, which will be used in mission profiles such as collecting hydrographic data, delivering passengers and in cargo rescue.
The brief is complex – the boats must be capable of doing 30 knots with prop guards and yet must still be able to fit under the 3.5 tonne towing limit.
That’s where Mercury’s blend of power and technology proved critical.
“We needed an engine package that would give us the power needed to meet the brief without the weight penalty,” Andrew said.
“That’s why we’ve gone for a Mercury 150hp SeaPro twin engine rig. It’s the lightest engine in its class with the best power to weight ratio.
“It gives us the horsepower we need while keeping us within the towing limits, so it’s the perfect engine for the job.
“The fuel consumption also is impressive and at the optimum cruise speed will allow the boats to complete missions over 200 nautical miles.”
Mercury has a long association with army marine supplying customised engine solutions on many of their specialised craft, providing power outputs ranging from 15hp through to 300hp.
“Mercury SeaPro engines are designed and built for government and commercial users,” said Glenn Davidson, Business Manager OEM/Commercial for Mercury Marine.
“They incorporate exclusive features and undergo extensive testing to ensure they provide the reliability and durability needed by these organisations. We’re delighted to be partnering with TRS to help deliver these boats.”
The engines are being supplied to TRS through local Cairns dealer Aussie Marine.
“Cairns business often seems to get left behind because we’re so far away from the rest of Australia, but Mercury have been fantastic through this whole process,” Andrew Wagner said.
“They gave us really competitive pricing and were a major part of getting us over the line.”
The boats will be built with all Mercury electronics from the steering gear back. Mercury’s accessory options also allowed TRS to fit items like the latest DC-DC convertors and chargers to power the specialised equipment Army needs onboard to do their job.
Another Cairns company, EDMS Australia, has been brought in to deliver the prop guards through its advanced manufacturing 3D printing process.
The guys at TRS know the build won’t be easy. The boats have to have level flotation ability, will feature solar power, a full suite of electronics and there are other nuances to engineer such as side and transom doors as well as ‘shock mitigating seating’ which record the impacts and vibrations that the crew experience through the course of their mission.
But Andrew and the team wouldn’t have it any other way.
“They’re complex boats and that’s good because boats get more complex as they get bigger,” he said.
“We’re ready for the challenge and excited about this next phase in our development as a company.”