Tasmania has a thriving manufacturing industry. The sector contributed $1.7bn (7%) to the state gross product in 2014-15, while employing around 19,000 people.

Native Tasmanians made daring blue-water hunting trips to offshore islands in vessels made from reeds. Wooden boatbuilding began within days of European settlement in 1803. The colonists’ first vessel was a wooden skiff whose builders could not have imagined the giant, high-speed 120m catamarans that Tasmanians now export to the world.

One company, Incat Tasmania, has built 40% of the world’s fleet of large-scale, fast, multi-hull ferries, including the world’s fastest passenger ferry, Francisco. Incat has held the record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean for more than 25 years. Other local ship-builders find niches in the design and construction of smaller-scale vessels that take inspiration from Incat’s cutting-edge technology.

As Incat’s Prince of Wales Bay shipyard expanded in Hobart’s suburbs in the 1990s, supply companies grew up around it. This group of businesses has now evolved into the Tasmanian Maritime Network, which can provide a one-stop shop for shipbuilders who want access to the latest technology and quality products and services, including training a construction workforce or fitting out a finished ship.

Members of the network, most of whom grew as suppliers to Incat, are significant exporters in their own right. Liferaft Systems Australia, for example is a world leader in the supply of inflatable lifeboats and ship-evacuation systems. CBG Systems is globally competitive in ship-board fire-protection and insulation. Muir Engineering produces winches and windlasses for mega yachts around the world, while Moonraker Australia supplies high-performance antennae to a number of the world’s navies. Richardson Devine Marine builds fast ferries and offshore support vessels for export markets including Tanzania, Japan and New Zealand. Taylor Bros specialises in large-scale prefabricated ship fitout.

The oceans wash around Tasmanian life. The Sydney-Hobart yacht race is the State’s most important annual sporting event. The people preserve traditional wooden boat-building skills and celebrate them with an international Wooden Boat Festival every two years. Sailing, cruising and fishing are integral parts of island life. So is the building of boats. Marine industry excellence comes naturally to Tasmanians.

Mining & resources

Mining expertise in Tasmania has evolved from being focused on winning the resource to providing innovative equipment and improved techniques so that operations can be more efficient and environmentally sensitive. Tasmanians have developed world-class hard-rock expertise and sell their technology to mining businesses around the world.

The Elphinstone Group designs and constructs underground mine machinery in Burnie. Haulmax, in Wynard, manufactures off-highway bulk haulage vehicles for mining applications. Terratec Asia Pacific, near Hobart, designs and builds tunnelling and drilling machines that can be found working in mines around the world. Railmax specialises in the design, engineering and manufacture of technologically advanced and certified road rail equipment for use on the repair of rail infrastructure.

Advanced and precision manufacturing

The metal manufacturing, casting, specialised machinery manufacturing and engineering sector produces a diverse range of niche products, while also supporting repair and maintenance activity within mining, mineral-processing and other heavy industries. Investment opportunities have been identified in:

  • Higher value-added products in fabrication fit-out, plastics and electronics.
  • Food & beverage manufacturing and downstream processing, taking advantage of the State’s $400m investment in irrigation.
  • Downstream processing or value-adding to Tasmania’s rich resource base.
  • Maintenance and service of existing and new capital equipment.

A State-wide Advanced Manufacturing Industry Association was established in 2016, with administrative services provided by the Tasmanian Minerals and Energy Council.

A small, highly skilled group of Tasmanian businesses provide precision engineering services, while Hobart is home to a world leader in the miniaturisation of technology. CSIRO’s Paulo de Souza developed tiny, lightweight components for NASA’s mission to Mars. He leads a scientific team that gave the world honey-bee backpacks and is testing even smaller devices to be carried by mosquitoes. Prototypes of the minute backpacks are being trialled in Brazil and could become a key weapon in the battle to control the devastating mosquito-borne Zika virus.

Currawong Engineering develops and manufactures small-scale aircraft propulsion systems with engines designed to aerospace standards and fully integrated with fuel systems, exhaust systems and engine mounting systems. Other businesses in the field include Launceston Engineering, Rolf Hey Engineering, and Precision Engineering and Manufacturing.

The Tasmanian business community’s innovation and creativity is reflected in the variety of products it generates. The sector includes world-competitive businesses producing underground mining and drilling equipment, communications technology, fibreglass components including polar shelters, propulsion systems for unmanned aircraft, tiny monitors that can be carried by insects and lightning protection technology.

Reprinted courtesy of Brand Tasmania.