Great Yarmouth based Alicat unveils new generation of windfarm support boat

Alicat yard

Alicat yard - Credit: Archant

As Great Yarmouth company Alicat Workboats unveiled its new generation of windfarm support boats, business development manager David Blake, pictured, declared that our region can become a 'worldwide hub for offshore wind'.

He said the end result could be 'phenomenal' if companies from Yarmouth and Lowestoft - and the ports themselves - pull together in the way Grimsby and Hull have done in marketing themselves as the Humber.

He presented his vision as Alicat - launched only five years ago but already employing more than 110 people at its yard in Southtown Road - opened its workshop to show off a new generation of offshore windfarm support vessels being built to meet the needs of pioneering hull research.

The first of the new breed, Seacat Intrepid, has already been put to work by Seacat Services after being built at the base of Alicat's sister company, South Boats IOW, on the Isle of Wight.

Now four more of the new design boats are being built - two at Alicat's yard in Southtown Road, Yarmouth, and two on the Isle of Wight.

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Alicat business development manager David Blake said when they took over South Boats two years ago they had also acquired the fruits of an extensive research programme testing scale models of different hull types - from catamarans and trimarans to hydrofoils - at a tank facility on the South coast.

The trials, carried out by Chichester firm Seaspeed, had simulated different sea states to replicate offshore windfarm sites in different parts of the world.

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Mr Blake said: 'The comfort and safety of crew on these vessels is paramount and our new design has been demonstrated to dramatically reduce the number of slams from wave impacts.'

The new hull would also bring a reduction of noise for crew and greater fuel efficiency, he added.

Mr Blake said there had already been tremendous customer interest in the Yarmouth boats under construction -a 22m vessel costing upwards of £2.6m and a 26m design costing around £3.6m.

The larger boat, especially, had been built 'with round three of windfarm development in mind' when turbines would be built in rougher water out to sea. An even larger 27m vessel had reached the planning stage.

Since its launch in 2009 - in what Mr Blake described as 'a project to see if it was still viable to build boats from this yard' - Gardline-owned Alicat has enjoyed a meteoric rise to a predicted end-of-year turnover of £30m for its combined operation in Norfolk and Isle of Wight.

He said: 'There has been a 10pc growth in staff every year.'

Simon Gray, chief exectuive of EEEGR (East of England Energy Group), said: 'The UK has already got more installed offshore wind capacity than the rest of the world combined - and nearly 69pc of that is on the East coast of England.

'That is why we have got companies like Alicat, 3sun and Seajacks growing so rapidly.'

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