Floating on a tide of success
ONE Yamba business is competing on the world stage and providing employment for more than 18 specialist workers.
Not only did Yamba Welding and Engineering build the high-speed rescue craft launched by Wooli Marine Rescue at Easter, it is just one of their many boat contracts under construction.
Somehow the team is managing to build two patrol boats, a 10m landing barge and an airport fire tanker at the one Yamba factory.
"We're also in negotiations with South East Asian paramilitary organisations and quoting on six police coastguard vessels for them at the moment," said business owner Bill Collingburn.
In the specialised aluminium boat building field, Yamba Welding and Engineering has only two direct competitors in the state and another seven in Queensland.
Manufacturing in a regional location means freight costs reduce competitiveness but this can be offset by workforce stability.
"We have a loyal workforce, we train all our own people and people in the regions are more stable in country areas," Mr Collingburn said.
"The blokes are innovative, they've got to be as we've got to be competitive, but we've got to be better than the others too," he said.
"If we get a job in Sydney, the customer has got to add in the price of staff to deliver the boat to Sydney."
Sitting on the workshop floor is a $420,000 vessel for NSW Maritime, a $516,000 patrol boat for Victorian Police and a landing barge for the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management, worth $536,000. Work will start in the next couple of weeks on a vessel for a rescue authority worth $320,000.
After leaving the Royal Australian Navy, Mr Collingburn moved to Yamba in 1974.
"I applied to get a job but nobody would give me a job, so I built myself a trawler and somebody was silly enough to give me money for it."
Building and servicing trawlers led to structural steel projects, and in over 38 years in business his team has built 32 passenger boats for the Tweed River, houseboats and a cruise boat for the Clarence River, a 60ft Darling Harbour jet boat and pilot boats for customers on Thursday Island, Gladstone and Mackay.
Everything on the boats is either fabricated or installed on site, keeping a team of mechanics, sheet metal workers, boilermakers, upholsterers, aluminium fabricators and marine electricians in work.