Quality craft

Born in 2008 from the acquisition and merger of Griffon Hovercraft and Hoverwork by the Bland Group, Griffon Hoverwork has descended from the originators of the hovercraft industry. Uniting over 40 years of hovercraft design, manufacture and operational experience, the company today specialises in the manufacture of air cushioned vehicles, commonly referred to as hovercraft. The company provides transport solutions for customers in the marine, navy, security and military markets all over the world, enabling them to access areas where conventional marine vessels cannot reach.

“Over the last 12 months we have grown the business to over £30 million in revenue,” highlights Adrian Went, managing director of Griffon Hoverwork. South America has been a particular strong growth market over the past 12 months. “We have won some great orders in South America where we have delivered two hovercraft for the ministry of agriculture in Venezuela. We are also in the process of delivering a fleet of five hovercraft for the Peruvian Navy,which has been operating two Griffon 2000TD series hovercraft since 2009.” The hovercrafts are currently involved in security, government and logistics roles but Adrian has hopes for the vessels to be utilised in other markets: ”We are in some very optimistic discussions with the Brazilians – I am very hopeful that we will be providing part of the transport infrastructure for the Olympics in 2016.”

All GHL hovercraft have the capability to operate where no other boat can;travelling over shallow water, mud flats,debris laden rivers, rapids, marshes and sea ice. They can be operated from unprepared beaches, harbours, piers, pontoons and riverbanks and are invaluable in areas with sensitive environments as they leave no tracks,create no underwater noise or pressure signatures, have no wake and therefore create no wash.

An emerging market is logistic and rescue support for oil exploration and production. As the oil and gas reserves start to deplete in benign production regions, the industry is seeking to find new reservoirs in areas such as the shallows of the Northern Caspian Sea and the Arctic. Exploration in the Arctic is becoming a challenging growth market for all concerned and Griffon Hoverwork sees potential for its innovative range of craft to expand, as Adrian explains: “Another development is our R&D for the oil and gas industry, some of these companies are interested in acquiring a vehicle that can operate across all of the treacherous ice conditions it expects to experience on the North Alaskan Shelf. In these regions, the ice floes collide with each other, causing pressure ridges. So our research is to establish the feasibility of building a hovercraft that can cross an ice ridge of two and a half to three metres in height.”

So far the company has completed conceptual designs, mathematical modeling, new skirt designs and is now in the process of using a scale demonstrator. The R&D is not limited to finding ways to cross ice ridges, as it includes finding new skirt materials, innovative hull structure designs, means to maintain the craft free of ice when in operation and development of the systems that will enable the craft to be used as an escape/ rescue vehicle. “We want to ensure it is always possible to escape from an oil rig, regardless of the weather conditions. Safety must always come before commercial advantage and due to the critical potential safety role, the plan is to include other interested oil companies in the research consortium.”

No stranger to sub zero conditions, Griffon Hoverwork has provided bespoke hovercraft for clients working in treacherous conditions worldwide, such as the Swedish Coast Guard, Crowley Alaska, the British Royal Marines and the Canadian Coastguard. These craft are used for a variety of roles, but all offer a solution for ice rescue due to their ability to travel at speed over ice and snow.

The company’s project to build a large patrol hovercraft for the Canadian Coastguard is nearly complete and should be launched mid 2013. “Our experience working with the Canadian Coastguard will certainly help with our R&D. We have worked with them for many years, updating and replacing their ongoing fleet size of four,” states Adrian. “Our market is primarily in coastguard, military and policing but our aim is to open up the oil and gas market and make that as big an opportunity for us as our current markets.”

Another area of interest for the company is India, where marketing director Mike Coveney represented Griffon Hoverwork during the Prime Minister’s trade visit in February 2013. Following its deal to supply the Indian Coastguard with 12 craft, Griffon is looking to expand further into this high growth country in the future. “It was a successful visit and it was great to be invited. We were able to enhance our network within government and this was an excellent platform for us to have some important meetings with existing and potential customers, such as the Indian Army,” enthuses Adrian. To help establish a foothold in the country, Griffon Hoverwork has set up a partnership with Goa Shipyard, as they are experts in the construction of small to medium sized coastal and offshore vessels.

With a strong order book for 2013, the firm is concentrating on delivering to the Columbian marines, Pakistan Navy and Indian Coastguard. Business development work is focused on R&D trials and market development in South America. Over the coming years Adrian has a strong vision for Griffon Hoverwork: “I would like us to have consolidated our position in security and defense and developed our footprint in oil and gas and commercial ferry support. We will also remain the global leaders in hovercraft design by developing our technology and continuing to offer state-of-the-art craft.”

Griffon Hoverwork
Seen growth in South America
R&D underway for treacherous ice conditions
Success in Indian market