Designing the Future

Formed in 1996 in Cork, Ireland as a dedicated, quality boat builder, Safehaven Marine has grown to become a recognised specialist in the construction of pilot boats. With origins in the design of one to 12 metre workboat vessels, the organisation rapidly increased its expertise and arsenal to include 14 to 17 metre constructions and 2005 saw it enter the pilot boat market. Having established its prowess in its own Interceptor hull design, the company made a natural transition into this field and today over 80 per cent of its business comes from the pilot boat arena, supplying harbour authorities and ports throughout Europe. Safehaven Marine enjoys ongoing relationships with customers such as the Port of Southampton, Port of Portland and the Port of Liverpool in the UK, as well as international clients such as the Port of Sines and Port of Averio in Portugal, Port of Roenne, Denmark and St Malo, France, to name but a few.

With such an international reputation to maintain, Frank Kowalski, managing director of Safehaven Marine highlights some of its key differentiators in the market: “We have built our reputation on the highly respected sea keeping capabilities of our vessels that are adept at operating in extremely rough seas. Our headquarters located at Cork are exposed to the Atlantic and Cork harbour has some very challenging conditions at the entrance, giving us the ideal experience needed to create our first pilot vessel. This was specifically designed to have very high levels of sea keeping for operation at the port itself. The vessel proved to be fit for purpose and our eminence in this area has continued to grow ever since, with some of our boats being involved in tests in violent storm forces of over 11. This is especially important for pilot boats that often have to go alongside ships in often four or five metre seas.” Furthermore, the company’s use of its website has proven to be vital to its international success, with impressive pictures and videos of boats in rough conditions gaining the attention of clients throughout the globe.

The company’s most recent and notable development is its move into the offshore wind farm market and the creation of its brand new 16-metre catamaran. Having previously served the industry with both 11 and 12 metre fibre glass catamaran designs from 2004, this latest construction is due to meet the evermore demanding industry requirements, utilising the strengths and experience of the organisation’s activities in the pilot boat field. The smaller models have already been put to use by the Port of Liverpool and PD Teesport in Middlesborough, while another is being built for a client in Africa. Safehaven Marine, however, decided there was a need in the market for a larger GRP (glass reinforced plastic) version that would meet the needs of the offshore renewable market exactly. In past years moulds have not been big enough for the manufacture of 16-metre solutions and the majority of vessels have had to be built in aluminium – Safehaven Marine’s innovation has changed this. The new Wildcat catamaran is ideally constructed in fibre-glass to give it stronger credentials, the ability to withstand harsh offshore environments and the capacity to put its bow against a non-moveable structure in over two metre seas.

“We simply transferred the expertise we have developed over the years in GRP fibre glass pilot boat construction into the wind farm catamaran and have developed this brand new hull mould. Our first vessel was launched earlier this year and displayed at the 2010 Seawork Show in Southampton where it gained a very positive reception. It has already been employed at the Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm at Harwich and the owners are so pleased with its performance we have been contracted for a second vessel and are building it now. Such industry events are essential for our continued success and we have attended the Seawork event every year since its inception in 1996. This year we had a particularly large presence with the two Southampton pilot boats, two Interceptor 55 vessels and one of our Wildcat catamarans representing our capabilities,” Frank notes.

In addition, the organisation is busy investing in the further development of its portfolio and has plans to present a new 14.5 metre pilot boat in the coming months, while 2012 will witness the launch of a newly designed 12-metre catamaran that will not only be slightly larger, but specifically tailored to the needs of wind farm customers. As well as following this ambitious investment strategy, Safehaven Marine’s 40-strong, highly-experienced workforce are currently occupied with the construction and deliverance of pilot boats to the Port of Bordeaux, Port of Roenne and Mersea Docks in Liverpool, while the Port of Malta is due to receive its second pilot boat in as many years as a result of its unrivalled success in the region.

Whilst the challenges of the world economic crisis have caused a 20 per cent downturn in the recreational vessel arena, Safehaven Marine has survived with little detrimental impact to its pilot boat business. The company continues to see full forward order books and is looking towards the sustainability of its niche market and penetration into the wind farm market rather than aggressive expansion into alternative areas. “The pilot boat market is our niche though we are using our proficiency in this field to meet the requirements of a developing and challenging market. I anticipate that the coming years will see us building and improving on our existing reputation as Europe’s preeminent pilot boat builder through increasingly competitive vessel design and positive relationships with our key clients,” Frank concludes.

Expanding into the wind farm market

Recently launched a new 16-metre catamaran vessel

Attended the Seawork Show in Southampton in June 2010