The hover craftsmen

Since the hovercraft was first conceived over 40 years ago Griffon Hoverwork has been at the forefront of its development. One of the world’s first hovercraft operations was set up by the founders of Griffon Hoverwork, alongside Sir Christopher Cockerell, the inventor of the hovercraft. The company was formed by the Bland Group following the purchase and merger of three ‘hover’ companies – Hovertravel, Hoverwork and Griffon. Today Griffon Hoverwork is a leading name in the design and manufacture of hovercraft, with more hovercraft in operation within the military, paramilitary, commercial and rescue sectors than any other manufacturer.

The sheer versatility of the hovercraft means that the vessels are in use across a number of industries. In fact Griffon Hoverwork has more than 150 hovercrafts in service in over 35 countries worldwide from jungle to arctic conditions. Adrian Went, managing director, describes the company’s main clients: “Military and paramilitary organisations have been our main customers in recent years including the Indian Coastguard, Saudi Arabian Border Guard and Swedish Amphibious Battalion. Typical applications include coast guard patrol, amphibious assault, fast attack, mine counter measures, policing and customs, logistics, crash rescue and commando missions. Commercially our hovercraft are used for passenger ferries, survey work and civil engineering support. Craft are also operated by rescue services around the globe including airport rescue, ice rescue, mobile medical clinics and engineering support. We are now starting to target other sectors such as aid agencies, energy, and oil and gas markets.”

He carries on to highlight what sets Griffon Hoverwork apart from its competitors: “Unlike other manufacturers we have a track record of producing capable, reliable and proven hovercraft which are designed to suit the customer’s specific requirements. We also have an extensive consultancy and after-sales service, which supports the craft throughout its life with training, infrastructure reviews, maintenanceand mid-life refits. Every two years we host a user meeting for Griffon Hoverwork operators to share new designs, technology developments and to trial new craft.” With demand for the Griffon Hoverwork product growing, the company is planning to relocate to new premises next year, which will provide it with double its current capacity to undertake recent larger orders. The new facility would also enable Griffon Hoverwork to improve its productivity by increasing lean manufacturing and focusing on production engineering.

In October of this year Griffon Hoverwork secured its largest contract ever, with the Indian Coast Guard for 12 craft. The contract is worth £32 million and provides approximately three years of work for the company, including extensive training in the UK and in India. The 12 vessels will be the 8000TD model, which is a popular craft for coastguard operations as it can be configured to carry passengers, vehicles and equipment. Adrian comments on other recent contracts: “We have just successfully delivered two hovercraft to the Peru Navy for use on the Amazon River, an 8000TD to Singapore Changi Airport for crash rescue services and an 8100TD to the Kuwait Coastguard.”

With such a variety of different applications for each craft, Griffon Hoverwork works closely with each of its customers to produce a hovercraft, which meets their individual requirements. “Although we have standard models each craft is designed to be bespoke,” explains Adrian. “We spend a lot of time at the consultancy stage determining where and how the customer will use their craft. During the build the customer is a vital part of the design, we’re currently working with the Royal Marines on four new craft and having operated the old ones for 15 years they had a lot of suggestions. We also have to modify craft depending on what the customer plans to use it for – the Swedish wanted to carry snow scooters whilst many customers need to use theirs in tropical climates, all of which have to be incorporated in the design and build process. This is where our detailed knowledge base and market expertise comes into play.”

This close working partnership extends to other companies as well as clients with Griffon Hoverwork recently completing a new product development with QinetiQ, one of the world’s leading defence technology and security companies. “We recently worked with QinetQ to develop the PACSCAT, a partially air cushioned suspended catamaran that has been built as a trial craft for the MoD. The high-speed aluminium vessel is 30 metres long, has a design vehicle payload of 55 tonnes and an approximate loaded weight of 175 tonnes. It is designed to accommodate up to five Viking armoured fighting vehicles and is intended to off-load front line vehicles and troops from Royal Navy amphibious ships to the beach,” elaborates Adrian.

Increasingly, companies across a wide spectrum of different industries are realising the benefits of hovercraft and their ability to do things that conventional craft cannot. This flexible nature enables Griffon Hoverwork to continue to expand into new sectors and emerging markets. “The recent Pakistan floods have shown how vital hovercraft are for disaster relief and we believe there will be big demand from countries that are affected by natural disasters,” concludes Adrian. “We hope that there will also be more opportunities for the company in India and South America in the near future. Global security remains a strong market for us, but we’re also seeing significant potential in the oil and gas sector and are working closely with several companies to build and charter hovercraft. Over the next five years we hope to have doubled in size and consequently be able to offer a wider portfolio of products and services, whilst consolidating our position as a world leader in the design and manufacture of hovercraft.”

Experts in hovercraft production

Major new contracts

New product development with QinetiQ