Ship & Boat International eNews: January/February 2021
Increased global growth, a commitment to greener operations and autonomous boat development are all on the cards for Ribcraft UK, following the company’s acquisition by marine sector entrepreneur Toby Adams.
Adams’ involvement with the brand dates back to 2009, when he secured a Ribcraft manufacturing licence for the UAE, and co-founded franchise The Yellow Boats to supply these RIBs across the Middle East, primarily focusing on the tourist sector. On 1 November 2020, The Yellow Boats launched its own global franchise scheme, enabling individuals and investors to own and operate their own Ribcraft or The Yellow Boats business.
“As Ribcraft is the supplier, [franchisees] receive preferential rates on the boats, so the asset overhead is reduced,” Adams tells Ship & Boat International. “The Yellow Boats has such a fantastic global sales network, it was the natural step for the business. We have seen an incredible amount of enquiries for operations in the UK in the first two weeks since launch, which seems to be positive for the post-pandemic era.”
Ribcraft UK currently employs more than 50 personnel at its branch in Yeovil, in England’s south-west, though Adams reveals that he plans to boost the workforce by more than 50% in the next three years, in line with an upswing in military and commercial RIB orders. At present, the Yeovil facility can build RIBs sized up to 14m, with a production capacity of approximately 10 RIBs per month, depending on size. One of the few UK RIB manufacturers to fabricate newbuilds completely in-house, the builder specialises in producing boats with GRP hulls, inflatable collars and stainless steel fittings to the electrical and engine installations. The Yeovil site also hosts a dedicated tube-manufacturing facility, with global tube shipments arranged weekly.
“We consistently run at capacity, so additional space and workforce is required to potentially double this output,” Adams explains. “We’re looking at increasing the footprint of our facility considerably.” The UK part of the business will maintain its links with Massachusetts-based Ribcraft USA, which defied the gloom of 2020 to secure a number of multi-million dollar contracts with the US Navy, including a US$43 million deal for a series of 11m mine countermeasure boats.
“The leisure RIB market has certainly taken a pause in the last six months,” says Adams. “However, as a business, we have a very strong core market, providing professional-grade, fully bespoke RIBs for commercial clients such as police agencies, coast guards and firefighting and rescue agencies. We have seen very little impact in these markets, and have had constantly strong demand, fortunately, throughout the pandemic.”
Brexit has also stimulated some welcome overseas orders so far, and this trend looks set to continue for now, Adams opines. “We’ve seen an upturn in the requirement for patrol boats and fisheries protection, and the Euro is certainly helping our boats to fit into tighter budgets too,” he says.
In spring 2021, Ribcraft UK will announce two key developments. The first will be a new RIB range employing hybrid propulsion; the second, a proof of concept for a remote-control/autonomy-capable craft for the patrol and defence sectors.