Burgess expands into new build
Thu, 16 October 2014
As first reported in last month’s ‘Maritime Journal’, the UK's Burgess Marine has supplemented its established shiprepair business and Trafalgar Yacht Management subsidiary by moving into new build with the acquisition of Meercat Workboats Ltd.
Burgess, with an annual turnover of around £25 million, has been increasingly moving into new build to augment its position as one of the UK’s biggest independent shiprepair companies.
One of its flagship works in construction was the restoration of the classic motor yacht Shemara, which sailed from its facilities in Portchester on the UK South Coast in April this year after a three-year project that saw Burgess take on increasing responsibility for fabrication as the project developed.
Jason Coltman, who is currently operations director at Burgess but will be managing director of Meercat, explained that Shemara gave Burgess the foundation and experience to market its newbuild activity.
The company subsequently utilised its expertise in aluminium fabrication by taking over a contract to supply three 25m. wind farm support vessels for Mainprize Offshore when Scottish yard Buckie went into administration. Having helped to deliver the first vessel, Burgess is now well into construction of the second boat at Portchester, with delivery due in mid-2015.
The addition of Meercat to the newbuild activities will provide Burgess with an established entry into steel shipbuilding. Meercat has already built more than 20 flat bottomed, road transportable workboats up to 18 metres. Among the latest is a 16m. maintenance vessel, equipped with a 23-tonne capacity crane, for the port of Belfast and the product line has also included workboats for overseas customers in Saudi Arabia, Australia and Norway.
Meercat’s 15-strong workforce, which includes designers, is currently fabricating a 14 metre V-shaped monohull boat for Dawnfresh Farming to service a trout farm in Scotland, with the prospect of a canal tug to follow. Average build time is three months.
Coltman explains: “We will be building boats to Class in future but still want to keep the Meercat product range simple and customer driven. Meercat will benefit from being part of a group with far greater financial resources and, with more marketing and sales effort, we’re looking to build an order book rather than building boats and then looking for customers.”
Burgess Marine Managing Director Nick Warren added that the company intended to expand Meercat’s products to include barges, canal tugs, bigger Class approved workboats and aluminium builds for wind farm support.
Meercat, which was established eight years ago by ex-Williams Shipping executive Peter Smith, currently operates from a steel shop and offices at the Portchester shipyard close to Burgess’ main South Coast repair facilities. But by early next year Coltman is hoping Meercat will be re-located in new purpose-built facilities.
He is also convinced the acquisition of Meercat will widen the appeal of the Burgess brand. “We’ve never had a tangible product until recently. We were basically selling people skills and repair. Once we got the shiplift at Portchester, we were able to market something and we now have a tangible product that will help us to develop the future direction of the company.”
Several shipping companies, from workboat and supply vessel providers to passenger ferry operators, are already taking an interest in the expanding steel and aluminium newbuild facility on the South Coast and Burgess’ established reputation in shiprepair is set to provide strong potential to grow the business.
By Philip Rood