Giant winch is the final piece of £1.6m scheme for Great Yarmouth firm Alicat Workboats

Alicat Workboats on Southtown Road. General Manager, Simon Coote next to the new boat lift. Picture: James Bass

The arrival of a 200-tonne boat-lift has been the final piece of a £1.6m redevelopment for Great Yarmouth firm Alicat Workboats.

The giant winch, costing £500,000, was today being formally christened by Norwich City legend Dave Stringer at an open event held to celebrate the firm's remarkable success story driven by the offshore wind industry.

The Southtown Road site's old dry dock, used for decades to repair offshore supply boats, was closed in October and the yard has since been redeveloped to specialise in the service and repair of small workboats, including the growing number serving offshore windfarms.

The transformation of the business, which formerly traded as Richards Dry Dock, was completed last week with the arrival of the boat lift, which is capable of lifting vessels out of the water in minutes; there is space in the yard to work on up to six vessels at a time.

Director Simon Coote said: 'The repair and servicing of workboats is a big market for us and this is a much more efficient way of getting small boats out of the water than a dry dock. We have worked on two boats this way just since Friday.'

Alicat Workboats was set up as a specialist division focusing on the construction and repair of aluminium workboats in 2009.

Mr Coote said: 'We identified the growing need and started it off with just six employees. Four years on, Alicat employs 110 in Yarmouth and 65 on the Isle of Wight at South Boats, which we took over last year.

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'The first year we built two boats and we are now building four to five a year. We are now up to boat number 16 in build, which will be finished in two months, and we have orders for a further seven.'

The early boats were 15m but the firm is now working on designs for 30m vessels for bigger windfarms further offshore.

Annual turnover for Alicat has grown to £13m compared to £2.5m in the days when the operation was trading as Richards Dry Dock.

Mr Coote said the firm also provided other services, including electrical work and steel fabrication, for a range of sectors.

Mr Coote said: 'We have got an apprenticeship scheme running and work with both Yarmouth and Lowestoft Colleges. However, there is still a skills shortage in engineering. Maintaining the right level of skills is key to us going forward.'

He stressed it was an industry with secure prospects and some of their staff had started as boys 25 years ago.

More than 300 guests, including customers, potential customers and local people in the supply chain, were invited to the open day.

Guest of honour Mr Stringer started out as an apprentice in the yard.

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