Half a century of RIBs

Humber RIBs is one of the major British builders of RIBs and has made a considerable reputation for itself in the commercial and military sector. This year the company hits a significant milestone: 50 years of RIB building.

Frank Roffee who started the company around 50 years ago is now retired and has been followed by his son Andrew making Humber still a family business but one which has grown is stature over the years to be come, Andrew claims, probably the major British RIB builder in terms of the number of boats built.

Andrew Roffee feels that there have been two main factors that have contributed to the success of Humber. “Our RIBs have always been very keenly priced so that we can compete on price with most of the builders around the world. The other factor is that we can offer quick delivery. We maintain a stock of hulls, tubes and other fittings and this enables us to put a boat together to the required specification in a very short space of time. We find that many of our customers in the commercial sector virtually want a new RIB off the shelf and with our production system we can assemble a RIB to the required specification to offer quick delivery.”

Frank Roffee started building inflatable boats in the 1960s mainly because he was a keen diver and wanted a practical boat that could get him out to dive sites. When other divers saw what Frank was using they wanted one and soon the production started, using his garage as a workshop. The conversion to RIB building started soon afterwards and as the demand increased the company expanded into larger premises. Much of the demand was still coming from the demanding dive market who wanted larger RIBs and as the company grew the size and number of ranges being offered increased.

The first serious production facility used by Humber was a derelict shipyard with a wharf along the River Humber which allowed direct launching into the water for testing. Today the company operates from two large sites still located in Hull and close together where the production is focussed. Humber does the whole building operation in-house using only the best materials such as Hypalon for the tubes and over 11,000 RIBs have been built by Humber since they started.

Today Humber offers a range of RIBs that cover virtually every requirement of the commercial, military and para-military sectors. At the bottom of the range are the small Sea Pro Tender and Coastal ranges and these are often carried by land based vehicles such as fire and rescue tenders for use in floods and for river and canal rescue work. This range extends from 3.1 to 4.77 metres and they are based on a multi-chine shallow vee hull.

One of the earliest RIB designs developed by Humber was the Ocean pro Attaque range with RIBs in 5 and 5.33 metre lengths. This was the RIB that formed the core of the dive RIB market but today the refined design is used for a wide variety of commercial applications. It was one of these RIBs in which Enda O’Coineen made the first Atlantic crossing in a RIB back in 1985.

The Ocean Pro range has now been expanded to include RIB designs that range from 5 metres up to 11 metres and it is this range that forms the backbone of the current production. They have been drop tested from over 5 metres and fitted with self-righting systems to meet various demands for RIBs used for extreme applications. Based on a unique deep vee hull design these Ocean Pro RIBs can be fitted with a variety of consoles and shelters and they are mainly supplied as outboard powered craft.

When a client wants a RIB adapted to special requirements or where a larger size of RIB is required then Humber puts them in touch with Quinquari Marine. Humber and Quinquari have worked closely together for the past 20 years in the production of specialised and larger RIBs. This particularly applies to RIBs with wheelhouses and those designed for thrill rides and these have been produced in sizes up to 14 metres in length.

Both the Humber and Quinquari RIBs have been used in a wide variety of commercial applications such as police, patrol, rescue, tourist and oil rig supply. One of the most recent applications has been in the offshore wind farm sector where specialised RIBs have been developed for personnel and stores transfer to wind farms close offshore. Humber/Quinquari claim to be the first RIB builder to have developed personnel carriers specifically for this sector and these feature a reinforced bow for direct pylon transfer. Most of the Humber range of RIBs can be built to SOLAS, MCA and RCD standards as required.

The RIB business is now fully international and this is reflected in the list of clients who have purchased Humber RIBs. Shell and Addax Oil are clients and RIBs have recently been supplied to Oman and to the Red Cross in Indonesia as well as to port and police authorities in the UK. Two challenging applications have been for the British Antarctic Survey and for the Gortex Challenge that took RIBs up into the Arctic.

Humber continues to expand and it is very active in the service and support sector with the company offering full refits and tube replacement services. Humber RIBs also runs an active second hand sales service with both their own and other manufacturer’s models available for quick delivery. At any one time Humber may have up to 60 RIBs from their own and other manufacturer’s ranges in stock for quick delivery.

“We are operating in a competitive market today”, commented Roffee. “We stand out from competitors with our keen pricing and short delivery times which enables us to maintain a steady flow of orders”.

By Dag Pike

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