by Jeni Bone
On the Gold Coast, Queensland, it’s not all 'doom and gloom', according to managing director of Marine Engineering Consultants (MEC), Murray Owen – a 50-year veteran of the industry.
Diversifying and the ability to build, repair, maintain and refit have helped MEC weather the current downturn.
'Business is certainly tough,' he says, not making light of the present constricted market, 'But we are busy. We have found that doing a bit of everything helps you get through. Diversity and being able to respond to clients’ needs helped us survive during the 1996 recession, and it’s working for us now.'
From a background working with boats since his teens, and Lloyds Ships in his 20s, Murray founded MEC in 1992 at Hope Harbour. He moved the business to Gold Coast City Marina in 2001, where it occupies impressive facilities in the ultra-modern, purpose built facility.
MEC offers complete engineering services, aluminium boat building, refits, repowers and project management. We are service and sale agents for Northern Lights Generators, Lugger Diesel Engines, Wesmar Stabiliser, Lombardini Marine, VM Motori and services centre for Naiad Marine Systems, Grand Banks Motor Yachts, Hatteras Motor Yachts and Hargrave Motor Yachts.
MEC team Murray Owen second left
The company also handles superyacht refits, which Murray admits have fallen off lately as the Aussie dollar has hit record heights.
'We have established somewhat of a niche as well in the ferry market,' he explains, referring to the $3.5m 24m ferry just delivered to Gladstone to operate as a personnel vessel for the LNG-plant there – the latest in a history of ferries and charter yachts that have passed through MEC, such as Brisbane City Cat, Sun Goddess (Hayman Island) Aluminium Luxury Transfer Yacht, Sydney Ferries, GRP Catamarans for Hong Kong and China, and many more.
'We have two more ferries on the go, and we have just delivered a 20m luxury powercat to Jacobs Well, under the brand MEC Yachts.'
Although the company did lay off several welders during the peak of the GFC last year, its seems they will be rehiring. 'We had as many as 50 people working here a few years ago. Now there are 25 to 40 and we are busy with work that will take us through to January.'
Late last year, Murray shut down the company’s Mackay operations. 'The work there was fluctuating with the mining industry,' he says, adding that while MEC does maintain a presence in Brisbane, its Hemmant operations too were wrapped up last year.
'It has been a hard few years. The marine industry sees a light at the end of the tunnel, consumers start to react positively, then something else happens. The mining tax and carbon tax are both going to slow down the mining boom. Raw material will be directly affected by the carbon tax.'
While a high Aussie dollar is useful for buying engines, aluminium and other components, Murray says the refit industry has 'dropped off considerably'.
'European and US boats were coming to the Gold Coast in abundance, but they have slowed to a trickle. There are very few 40 to 50m boats coming.'
Orders mostly come to MEC through word of mouth, recommendations and referrals, with MEC boasting long-standing clients of many years. 'We have proven ourselves as reliable, quality custom-builders that can provide the skills for a range of marine functions.'
More at www.marineeng.com.au