Leading the field

The management team behind Griffon Hoverwork Ltd have been involved in the design, development, manufacture and operation of amphibious hovercraft since they were conceived over 40 years ago. As such, the company has been a pioneer in the development of hovercrafts, even helping to set up the world’s firsthovercraft operation alongside Sir Christopher Cockerell, the inventor of the hovercraft. Likewise, Griffon Hoverwork is the design authority for the original and subsequent British Hovercraft Corporation designs.

The name Griffon Hoverwork is derived from two historic firms: Hoverwork Ltd on the Isle of Wight, and Griffon Hovercraft Ltd in Southampton, which were both acquired by the Bland Group in 2008, and fully integrated as Griffon Hoverwork the following year. This strong parent organisation enables the business to invest in the latest thinking in lean manufacture, product development, and after-sales service, which in turn assists in its mission to be the world leader in hovercraft design, manufacture and operation.

At this point in its history, Griffon Hoverwork seems to be well positioned for maintaining this goal, acting as a single source for the largest range of hovercraft available in the world today. These assets range in length from 6.80 to 33.7 metres, and a payload capacity from 380 kilograms to 22.5 tonnes, or five to 180 passengers. The company has more than 150 hovercraft in service over 35 countries worldwide, in extremities of environment and climate from the jungles of South America to the freezing conditions of the Arctic. This includes more hovercraft in operation with the military, paramilitary, commercial and rescue sectors than any other manufacturer.

Commercially, Griffon Hoverwork’s products are used for passenger ferries, survey work, civil engineering support, mobile medical clinics, search and rescue, and logistics. The main benefits of a hovercraft from Griffon are its ability to travel at high speed over a wide variety of surfaces, high reliability and low maintenance running costs of the modern diesel engines, simple but rugged construction, high degree of manoeuvrability, and capability to fit the craft out in a wide variety of configurations.

In terms of specific applications, Griffon hovercraft offers a stable safe working platform for the fitting, storage, and deployment of oil spill response equipment. Unlike conventional propeller driven craft, which churn up surface oil making it more difficult to recover, the hovercraft air cushion allows the craft to hover over any spill with limited contact with the oil itself. The hovercraft is also ideal for use around in-shore, shallow and tidal areas that are difficult for conventional craft to access.

In a similar fashion, Griffon hovercraft allow hydrographic and seismic surveys to take place in areas that are inaccessible to traditional vessels, and can act in an engineering support role for tasks such as dredging, cable, and pipe laying in shallow waters. The craft also find a niche in ferrying passengers, or carrying cargo, particularly on more difficult waterways such as rivers, tidal estuaries, creeks, or winter ice.

Outside of its commercial applications, Griffon hovercraft are in service with navy, army and paramilitary operations throughout the world in a number of different roles. All craft are available with differing levels of armour protection to suit client requirements. In particular, Griffon Hoverwork supplies crafts for mine counter measures, recce, fast attack, medical evacuation, amphibious assault, range patrol, weapons platform, logistics, and policing or customs duties.

The properties of hovercrafts mean that they are increasingly being seen as a crucial resource for emergency access in extreme, hostile and remote areas. Another key target market for Griffon Hoverwork is the rescue sector, where its crafts provide accessibility to tidal areas, and rescue services for airport emergency scenarios. The company’s expertise is not just limited to the production of fast amphibious hovercraft though, with the air cushion principle boasting numerous other commercial and industrial applications. Some of the unique solutions that Griffon Hoverwork has delivered to date include hovering crop-sprayers, hovering cricket-pitch covers, and hover barges with a load capacity ranging from 30 tonnes to 125 tonnes.

Since the announcement of the contract in August 2010, Griffon Hoverwork has been working on delivering 12 8000TD hovercrafts to the Indian Government for its coastguard. Planned for construction over a three year period, the company is currently almost halfway through the contract with the first craft delivered to the Indian Government earlier this year, and four now being built at the Griffon Hoverworks factory in Southampton.

At the beginning of the year, Griffon Hoverwork successfully won a new contract to supply the Peruvian Navy with five Griffon 2000TD hovercraft, which are to be deployed in the Northern Amazonian rivers in an enforcement role along the Peruvian-Brazilian border. The Peruvian Navy has already operated two Griffon 2000 series hovercraft since 2009, which have considerably improved access to the Amazon jungles since deployment. In addition to the five hovercraft, the contract also includes an intensive and specialised training package for both pilots and technicians, which has been put together by Griffon Hoverwork’s training department. Recognising the value of such training, the Peruvian Navy has dedicated one of the five craft solely to training in country.

This achievement was followed some months later by an agreement to provide Venezuela’s Ministry of Agriculture with a new logistical solution. As such, Griffon Hoverwork will be providing the Ministry of Agriculture with one 8000TD hovercraft and one AP1-88 type, which both have the capability to carry passengers and cargo. Each hovercraft will play a vital role in supplying local communities in remote areas along the Orinoco River with local produce, which was previously not possible with conventional boats.

From the moment it unveiled the first hovercraft in the 1970’s, Griffon Hoverwork has been dedicated to pursuing innovation in design and engineering. As such, its name has become synonymous with quality craft, and high standards of performance and safety. To this end Griffon Hoverwork engages in ongoing research and development, and this investment in the future means that its products incorporate the latest thinking in hovercraft design. The company has also recently upgraded the facilities at its site in Southampton with state-of-the-art production equipment, brand new office facilities, and a fully integrated design-to-delivery production line, which will go a long way in ensuring Griffon hovercraft continue to lead the field.

Pioneer in hovercraft technology
Wide range of applications
New contract with Peruvian Navy