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Navy veterans join experts to build production boats - Naiad staying in New Zealand

by The Whiskey Project 1 Sep 2020 18:07 PDT
Whiskey Alpha 85 alongside the YWE built Transport for NSZ Naiads.- Sydney, Australia. © Salty Dingo

The Whiskey Project - a cutting-edge watercraft company led by two former Royal Australian Navy veterans - has acquired NSW boat manufacturer Yamba Welding & Engineering (YWE) and New Zealand based naval architecture firm Naiad. These companies will forge The Whiskey Project Group, creating a watercraft design and manufacturing company which will transform Australia and New Zealand’s maritime industry.

Mr Darren Schuback, Co-Founder and Managing Director of The Whiskey Project Group, said the acquisition of YWE and Naiad marks the coming together of three great Australian and New Zealand businesses and heralds an exciting future for Australian watercraft design and manufacturing.

“Through this strategic acquisition, The Whiskey Project Group will offer a family of watercraft ranging from new technology defence solutions to globally renowned law-enforcement and specialist leisure industry craft,” said Mr Schuback.

The Whiskey Project’s next generation tactical watercraft, Whiskey Alpha, was launched at the 2019 Pacific International Maritime Expo to great acclaim for its integrated cutting-edge technologies, fit-for-purpose design, complete modularity, design agility and new technology hull manufactured from carbon composite advanced materials. Purpose built for the demanding maritime defence and law enforcement sector, its technical advances have applications relevant for many other markets.

“The formation of The Whiskey Project Group secures advanced maritime manufacturing capabilities in Australia, with a natural cross over of technology and skilled labour between government, specialist and leisure sectors over time,” said Mr Schuback.

YWE, established in the northern NSW coastal town of Yamba by Bill Collingburn in 1974 and renowned for its boat building expertise, is a trusted supplier of watercraft for police, Marine Rescue NSW, Coast Guard, VMR, and Defence. In the past 10 years, YWE has built more than 200 vessels for these and a variety of other Australian Federal and State Government agencies.

Mr Collingburn, who is staying in the business as YWE Technical Advisor, said “I am delighted that The Whiskey Project Group share my vision for the future and are committed to the continued growth of YWE and the marine industry.”

The deal includes Naiad, the New Zealand based naval architecture business which YWE itself acquired earlier this year from founder Steve Schmidt – one of New Zealand’s leading marine designers – and his wife Jenny. Naiad boats, renowned for being the “4WD of the Sea” and for their aesthetic appeal, are built under license around the world. Naiads are popular for a wide range of Federal and State Government military, law enforcement, rescue agency vessels, as well as commercial, tourism, recreational and Superyacht tender applications.

Sail-World has been told, outside the the media release that Naiad will remain in New Zealand and that "everything remains stable for the business. The Whiskey Project Group will be looking for opportunities to grow the Naiad business in future, that includes seeking a New Zealand based manufacturing partner."

“The Whiskey Project, YWE and Naiad have a remarkable cultural synergy that will make The Whiskey Project Group a formidable Australian and global solution for high performance watercraft,” said Mr Schuback.

“Watercraft from The Whiskey Project Group will be used for marine rescue, they will be used by defence, as tenders for superyachts, by commercial operators, in maritime police operations, by tour operators, in fisheries management and more.”

The move is set to benefit the marine industry and regional centres around Australia, as The Whiskey Project Group’s current organisational workforce footprint (including licencees) covers NSW, ACT, Western Australia and New Zealand, with strategic growth plans that include Queensland and the Northern Territory.

“The Whiskey Project Group is 100% Australian owned,” said Mr Schuback.

“We’re working to keep Australian marine industry jobs and to future proof the integrity of Australian innovations and leading-edge technologies.

“The export opportunities for the group are excellent – we’re taking Australian watercraft design, creation and production to the world.”

The contract was announced today, with transaction completion scheduled for Q4 2020.

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