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Is it a boat...or is it a vehicle in the river near Norwich?

PUBLISHED: 07:47 14 September 2012 | UPDATED: 16:45 14 September 2012

Making a splash at Thorpe St Andrew

Making a splash at Thorpe St Andrew

Archant

It was a sight which left puzzled holidaymakers on Broads cruisers asking the question: Is it a strange vehicle or an even stranger kind of boat?

In its first trial in the UK, the ZZ3 – AKA The Otter – sped down a lane to the bankside at Thorpe St Andrew and, without pausing at the boatyards, plunged into the River Yare. Significantly, watching yesterday’s demonstration were Phil Berry, station manager at Carrow fire station in Norwich, and Norfolk County Councillor Paul Rice.

Until now, the tracked vehicle – described by Norfolk importer Tim Dockerty as “the ultimate Land Rover” – has been used as a workhorse and search and rescue vehicle in wild parts of Russia.

However, Mr Berry and senior colleagues in Norfolk Fire Service feel it could play a valuable role in flood rescue and a host of other scenarios.

Mr Dockerty, right, 52, managing-director of Specialist Vehicle Trading in Little Melton, near Norwich, has been negotiating with the manufacturer Russian Machines and its American joint venture partner Terex for more than two years to obtain the worldwide sales rights. And in the weeks since he clinched the deal and imported the first two £73,000 vehicles, he has attracted “enormous interest”, not just from the emergency services across Britain but a diverse range of firms, including power companies.

He explained that he had tracked down the ZZ3 as the perfect vehicle to teach people to drive tanks and other tracked vehicles for his other company, Specialist Vehicle Training.

Mr Dockerty, who also has the sales rights to other vehicles in the range, has a modest sales target of 20 in the first year but is projecting 200 sales in year two.

He is currently looking for a site around the city for an assembly plant to put together the vehicles.

“If all goes well it could create anything between 20 and 200 jobs,” he said.

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