Griffon Hoverwork, as it is recognised today, was established in 2008 with the acquisition of Griffon Hovercraft and Hoverwork by the Bland Group, which later merged the two entities into a single business during 2009. The merger united close to half a century of hovercraft design, manufacture and operational experience and today the company continues to deliver market-leading craft to appreciative clients all over the world.
Although an interesting mode of transport, capable of capturing the imagination of the general public and maritime operators alike, hovercraft technology is often thought of as a highly niche and specialised solution. Hovercraft provide a vital service in meeting the challenges of some of the planet’s most challenging terrain as, Griffon Hoverwork’s Managing Director Adrian Went explains: “In its original guise during the 1960s and 1970s there was an impression that this amazing British invention of hovercraft would be the solution to all of the world’s transport problems, but we are obviously not in that mindset today. At Griffon Hoverwork we consider it a specialist marine vehicle that can access the inaccessible. If a client is dealing with huge intertidal range and needs to access the shoreline, then a hovercraft will get them there. Hovercraft can traverse marshes, rapids, ice-covered water, logs and other debris. They can be used to get people to shore dry shod unlike in a conventional landing craft. In coastal operations where there are sand bars that change location with the weather and there is a chance that the information regarding their location is not up-to-date, a hovercraft will get round that situation much more easily.”
Griffon Hoverwork retains its base in Southampton, from which it has delivered bespoke variations of its portfolio of small, medium and larger hovercraft designs to clients across the globe. Although the company as it stands was founded in 2008, its roots can be traced back to the very beginnings of British hovercraft design. One significant advantage for Griffon Hoverwork is that through the inclusion of Hoverwork in its makeup, the company retains access to the original design portfolio of British Hovercraft Corporation (BHC). In striking a balance between the design breakthroughs of the BHC and the innovative steps taken by its expert research and development team, Griffon Hoverwork is able to remain at the forefront of hovercraft design. As Adrian observes: “When the two companies were brought together we were able to retain much of the knowledge base and this includes people who were involved in the original days of hovercraft. This is important because although there is a written theory of hovercraft d sign, there is also a huge amount of empirical understanding that needs to be added to the design to always produce hovercraft that will work. We have applied that understanding in all of our work so that if for example, we say a hovercraft will do 50 knots then it will probably do 53 knots at trial. Whereas our competitors will say the craft can do 50 knots but it will only achieve 35 knots at trial.
“Although hovercraft technology relies on a relatively simple principle, actually getting it to do what is actually specified is a little more challenging. We are lucky to have an vertically integrated capability here that designs everything from scratch and therefore we are very successful in delivering exactly what the customer is asking for.”
The client base of customers and the industries they serve are spread across an impressive spectrum of markets and locations. While its main client base is centred on the defence and security markets including Coast Guards, Border Forces, Army and Navy counter insurgency forces, Griffon Hoverwork has also delivered craft designed for air crash rescue operations and for service in the oil and gas industry. Furthermore, it supplies its sister company, Hovertravel, with larger hovercraft deployed as transport craft in the ferry industry off the Isle of Wight.
To serve a global market that extends from South America through to the northern American continent, Canada through to Europe, Asia and even the Arctic region, Griffon Hoverwork ensures that it has a fully competent network of agents.
“When we select a local agent, it is absolutely essential that they understand our network and as such we provide them with formal training so they understand the way we work, our ethics and the legal framework that is in place,” Adrian says. “Then we provide them with effective support to help them to get out and use their relationships to develop the market for hovercraft. Once things develop we have a small sales team that is on hand to support our agents at trade shows and help to secure sales. It’s a traditional; agent layered sales approach across different countries at different levels that we have developed into a very effective operation.”
As 2014 wears on Griffon Hoverwork will continue to ensure that it delivers world-class transport solutions in challenging environments to an ever-growing list of satisfied customers, both old and new. The company has a number of clients who have returned after ten to 20 years of reliable service from their craft, including the Indian Coast Guard, the Swedish Coast Guard and the UK Ministry of Defence. Like its forbearers in the early days of hovercraft development, Griffon Hoverwork is set to deliver innovative designs to its clients worldwide, not matter how challenging the environment may be.
An expansive global network of agents
Innovative design and research and development
A broad and robust client base