UK Report: VT Halmatic Takes Charge

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Despite a parceling of marine business to the Far East, the British commercial and naval marine construction base has fought to maintain an edge in certain niches. VT Halmatic has been one of the more progressive and aggressive British companies in maintaining a strong hold on commercial and military marine business, with the production of some outstanding boats for pilot, patrol, marine security and naval operations. Noting the 60 to 70 percent of the company's production is for export, Sebastian Freeman, commercial controller, said, "that's how we survive." While the client list is diverse, VT Halmatic's "bread and butter" is the pilot and workboat markets, and despite the fact that the majority of is boats are sent abroad, the Royal Navy is still its biggest customer for RIBs.

An innovator since its start-up in 1952, the company is a specialist in glass reinforced plastic (GRP), composite construction and RIBs, has had a recent roller coaster history as the result of defense industry consolidation, with the purchase of the company by defense Goliath VT in 1998 and the relocation to the Portchester Shipyard in 1999. Boardroom bravado aside, the company has maintained a straight course in the production of quality boats for a diverse customer base, with a staff of 335 and a yearly turnover approaching $35 million.

As the world becomes a smaller place, with globalization finally being realized in nearly all corners of manufacturing, Freeman said "Halmatic is always looking for the right partner," in response to a question regarding the company's activities in the U.S., and the prospect of garnering market share for the quickly expanding "marine security" fleet of boats.

The list of design advantages touted by the company is as diverse as its customer base, but above all is seakeeping, with its 50 footers able to navigate safely and efficiently though Sea States 6 and 7. The company regularly partners with leading designers to ensure that its boats are top of the line, such as a recent deal with Cougar, which was developed to develop, manufacture and market the Cougar range of commercial and military powerboats, and has led to the development of the Enforcer 33, a high-speed asymmetrical narrow tunnel cat coastal patrol craft capable of 60+ knots.

VT Halmatic's product range fits into three categories: Commercial Craft; Fast Patrol Boats; and Rigid Inflatable Boats.

On Patrol

As a fast-growing segment of its product portfolio due in large to prevailing political conditions, the Patrol Boat segment of VT Halmatic is a diverse range of vessels and shapes with one over riding staple: expertise in the incorporation of the latest materials built on more than a half of a century experience.

The current patrol boat range extends from 39 to 98 ft. (12 to 30 m), and is based on planning, stepped and wave-piercing hull forms with speeds from 25 to 60 knots.

The range includes the conventional to the extreme, with the futuristic VSV wave-piercing design (pictured above).

The M120 and M140 (40 and 48 ft. (12.2 and 14.8 m, respectively)) class are based on medium V hull forms offering 40 knot top speeds, with the volume to accommodate four on extended patrols of up to 400 miles. The M160 and M180 class, slightly larger at 52 and 58 ft. (16 and 17.7 m), respectively, have proven effective in diverse services such as the Royal Navy and Caribbean Police Forces. Able to accommodate eight at speeds to 35 knots, the 450-n.m. range vessel is particularly flexible for navy, police, customs or coast guard operations. The M300 is the latest addition to the line, the largest of the VT Halmatic Patrol Boat offering at 98 ft. (30 m). Able to accommodate 15 with sleeping quarters, the 30-knot vessel has a range of 1,000 n.m. and is configured to allow for a variety of lightweight naval gun systems.

The VSV22, produced using Paragon Mann's unique wave piercing hull design, is by far the most revolutionary in the VT Halmatic stable of offerings, but is a proven monohull in military applications. The VSV22, the largest of this genre, measures 75 ft. (22.9 m) and has a top speed in excess of 60 knots. Featuring a sandwich construction which incorporates carbon fiber, Kevlar and a foam core, the craft is classed by ABS and is powered by twin 1,000 to 2,000 hp diesel engines powering surface drives. It is built to carry up to 26 passenger sand collateral gear, and is able to be configured for transport via aircraft.

Refitted Pilot Boat Returns to Service

As the "Estuary Warden" a VT Halmatic Nelson 48/50 pilot boat has recently been delivered back to Estuary Services Ltd. following a thorough mid-life refit at VT Halmatic's Portchester Shipyard.

The Cutter entered service in 1992 and has been in continuous service ever since in the busy approaches to the Thames Estuary and Medway Ports. The comprehensive refit focused on the major systems and structure. The original diesel engines were replaced with new Caterpillar 3406E marine diesels (rated at 550 bhp @ 2100 rpm) coupled to overhauled ZF BW155A gearboxes to provide a service speed of 22 knots. New silicon element Vulastik couplings were fitted between the engines and gearboxes. Teignbridge supplied new 5-blade propellers that have been designed to provide good acceleration and smooth running characteristics. Twin single lever electric cruise command engine and gearbox controls have been fitted to give precise handling and 'soft' gear engagement to prolong the life of the gearboxes. The electronic engine management system provides full multi-function digital displayed information at the helm console that can be interrogated with a laptop computer.

In addition the vessel is fitted with a real time data logger, which is interfaced with the GPS.

VT To Unveil Shipyard Technology Investment

This Spring, VT Group will unveil what it touts as Europe's most advanced naval shipbuilding facility, a nearly $60 million investment located within Portsmouth Naval Base. From the start, the facility will be used to build blocks for all the Royal Navy's new 7,500-ton type 45 destroyers, as VT will build the forward section, funnel and mast section for these ships. In addition, the company is in competition to build additional 262-ft. (80-m) offshore patrol vessels (OPV) for the Royal Navy, a project that would also take advantage of the new complex. Three vessels were previously contracted, and one (HMS Tyne) is now in service. The OPVs are a unique procurement for the Royal Navy, as they are believed to be the first ships built and funded by industry for charter to the Ministry of Defense. VT is financing the $90 million build of the three ships, and will charter them to the MoD for an initial period of five years, at which time the MoD can either extend the charter or return them to VT.

VT's Integrated Logistics Division will fully support the ships in service, guaranteeing a greater amount of sea availability than currently afforded by the five Island Class ships.

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