Boatbuilding boom is in the wind for East Anglian firms

The potential goldmine represented by the growth in offshore windfarms is to be flagged up to the region's boatbuilding firms at a breakfast briefing.

Industry leaders will be told at the meeting at Great Yarmouth racecourse on Wednesday that as the Crown Estate's third round of windfarms start to be built, including the 3,000-turbine East Anglian Array off the Norfolk and Suffolk coast, hundreds of new boats will be needed to service them.

Speakers at the briefing, organised by the industry focused body Marine East, will also impress on company bosses how engineering skills in boatbuilding can be transferred into wind turbine maintenance.

Ahead of the meeting, Marine East director David Martin said: 'The East of England is at the heart of the UK economy's shift to low carbon energy sources, a shift that is forecast to create a low carbon industry worth �75bn and supporting up to 70,000 jobs nationally by 2020.'

Marine East chairman Alan Goodchild, the boss of Goodchild Marine at Burgh Castle, near Yarmouth, said: 'Even ahead of the new generation of super windfarms, building windfarm boats already represents 20pc of our turnover.'

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He said his company was in the middle of a multi-million pound contract to fit out 12 support vessels, with another locally based firm, Alicat Workboats - part of the Gardline Group - supplying the aluminium hulls.

'Demand for boats at the moment is enormous. We are already looking at designs for bigger 26-metre vessels,' he said.

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'This is the ideal time for boatbuilders to market themselves, and it is not just about new builds; when the boats are out there they will require maintenance.'

Fellow Marine East director Gary Williams, highlighted how his Yarmouth-based firm, E-tech, was currently doing the electrical work on more than 30 new windfarm boats.

Highlighting the 'huge potential for jobs', he said his firm had already taken on 20 extra staff to cope with the demand.

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