Boatbuilder and designer Rafnar has kick-started 2019 by teaming up with Iceland’s Knarr Maritime Consortium, in a move expected to boost its business within the Russian market – and coinciding with the closure of its Kópavogur facility in Iceland.
In early January, Rafnar and Knarr announced that they had signed a letter of intent to cooperate on the manufacturing, marketing and sales of Rafnar’s boats and ÖK Hull concept within the Russian Federation. Both groups will cooperate through Knarr Rus, a Russian agent established in mid-2017 as part of Knarr’s mission to expand Icelandic maritime innovation into new territories.
Björn Jónsson, Rafnar managing director (pictured, far right), tells Ship & Boat International: “Rafnar will cooperate with Knarr Rus to team up with Russian boatbuilders, licensing the Rafnar hull technology and/or the fully designed Rafnar boats via franchising partnerships.” As it does for its other members and their products, Knarr Rus will handle all marketing and promotion related to Rafnar’s hull technology and designed vessels, including the Leiftur 1100 powerboat series.
Jónsson continues: “The timing is good for Rafnar as the Russian market is opening up to Icelandic sea tech solutions. [We] will not only attract Russian military and law enforcement-related customers…we’re working on a number of leads, including some within the private sector.” Talks are already underway with Russian yards keen to develop Rafnar vessels and hull tech, he adds.
Knarr’s original remit was to champion the interests of Icelandic companies specialising in fishing boat construction and operation, though the consortium is gaining traction as a powerful promoter of the island's state-of-the-art marine solutions. Knarr members include: naval architects Nautic and Skipatǽkni; winch and deck equipment manufacturer Naust Marine; fish processing, handling and freezing system specialist Skaginn 3X; Brimrún, Furuno’s Icelandic distributor; and onboard refrigeration system producer Frost. So far, Jónsson says, Knarr Rus has landed approximately €100 million (US$115 million) worth of contracts within the Russian Federation since it commenced operations: these contracts include an agreement signed by Skaginn 3X and Frost in summer 2018 to provide processing and freezing solutions to a fish processing plant in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, a city on Russia’s eastern coast.
The closure of the Kópavogur yard also signals the end of a chapter in Rafnar's history: it was at this location that the company unveiled the prototype and first commercial applications of its ÖK Hull concept. Jónsson confirms: "We will close down the yard in Iceland and sell the production equipment, leaving maybe a small team and equipment for further R&D."