Tasmanian advanced manufacturing sector enjoyed a good year in 2017, with major projects coming to fruition, and contracts signed for significant work going forward.

Four new deals worth a total of more than $80m are expected to generate nearly 50 new skilled jobs. Tamar Hydro in Exeter was selected in November to build hydro turbines for Indonesia, while Taylor Bros in Hobart will build two high-powered Antarctic landing barges for Australia’s new icebreaker RSV Nuyina. Meanwhile Liferaft Systems Australia (LSA) has signed a contract to build inflatable marine evacuation systems for a new class of warship being built in Britain, and Penguin Composites is working on its first major Defence-related contract and putting on 15 new employees.

Tamar Hydro will create 20 new positions after signing the contract to build turbines for an extensive mini-hydro network in Indonesia; the deal is expected to bring in about $45m over three years. General Manager, David Hillier, said it was a significant coup for the Exeter-based business, which is now looking for a larger factory in the Westbury or Bell Bay areas.

“This contract will bring us into the modern age with new machinery,” he said. “A lot of our equipment is fairly old – 30 years – so we need to re-tool.”

Tamar Hydro has built more than 200 turbines for Asia-Pacific projects after starting life in the 1970s in a small shed on the banks of the Tamar River. Work will be undertaken across about 16 sites in Indonesia and will include the refurbishment of existing turbines, deploying new ones and constructing dams.

Prominent Tasmanian Polar Network business, Taylor Bros, is scheduled to have two barges completed by 2020 when RSV Nuyina begins operations, replacing the long-serving Aurora Australis. Designed, engineered and built locally, the barges will carry 45.5-tonne trucks from ship to shore, giving the icebreaker unprecedented unloading and reloading capacity.

Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding is building RSV Nuyina in Romania for the Australian Antarctic Division. It will be 156 metres in length, with a beam of 25.6 metres and will be able to break ice up to 1.65 metres thick at speeds of 3 knots. RSV Nuyina will supply Australia’s research stations in East Antarctica and Macquarie Island with cargo, equipment and personnel.

GP Glass – Can-do glaziers

Spreyton-based glass manufacturer GP Glass landed a national award in October for a machine cobbled together from a mechanic’s engine crane and a boat winch.

GP Glass is one of Tasmania’s leading manufacturers of glazing solutions, producing high-quality aluminium windows and doors, framed and frameless balustrades and shower screens, sliding wardrobe fronts, security doors and window screens, for residential and commercial markets. It also offers cut-to-size glass and glass replacements for your existing windows and doors.

Faced with the mammoth task of installing 2,500 double-glazed windows weighing 100kg each in a new nine-storey student residence building for the University of Tasmania in Hobart, the GP team came up with its prize-winning window-lifting device that has piqued the interest of other glaziers around the country. The machine won a design award from the Tasmanian Glass and Aluminium Association and subsequently took out the National Safety Award at the Australian Glass and Glazing Association.

Company Director Brian Imlach said his team had to find a way to safely install the large glass panels: “It needed to be simple. It needed to be light. It needed to be strong and transportable and disassembled quickly, so we could lift it from floor to floor.”

The device was engineered to lift up to 200kg and it eliminated the need to use a harness while working on a building site edge, as a safety gate could be used.

“It’s safe, efficient and we can install a lot more windows because there’s not as much strain on our workforce,” Imlach added.

Launceston gets sensor hub

State-of-the-art sensors for international markets will be manufactured in Launceston following the launch of a new advanced manufacturing hub last March. State and Federal governments have supported the joint venture involving manufacturing business Definium Technologies and UTAS’s Sense-T project.

The university’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Brigid Heywood, said: “This is smart, future-facing manufacturing. This will position Launceston and Tasmania as an innovative provider of advanced circuit board components and electronic hardware design.”

The hub will allow Definium to design and build sensors for local and international applications. Definium Chief Executive Mike Cruse said: “We want to start monitoring and sensing the environment to help make decisions about the environment and create jobs.”

Definium employs three full-time technicians as well as casual staff but it’s expected the hub will increase employment to about eight full-time workers.

Incat ships fourth Sydney ferry

In August, Incat Tasmania completed delivery of the fourth in an order of six vessels to Sydney. Incat’s Hobart Shipyard has been awarded a contract to build six new ferries to operate on Sydney’s Inner Harbour. The Sydney Ferries will service commuter and tourist travel on the inner harbour routes from Watsons Bay in Sydney’s east to Cockatoo Island in the west, stopping at the new Barangaroo wharf.

The new vessels have a traditional exterior design intended to look similar to the Sydney First Fleet vessels. However the 35-metre, 400-passenger craft have greater capacity than the current fleet. The interiors are more spacious, with comfortable inside seating, outdoor viewing areas, a large walk-around deck and additional features for passengers.

Tasmania’s Deputy Premier, Matthew Groom, said the presence of Tasmanian-built ferries on Sydney Harbour would strengthen the state’s boat-building reputation: “This is an important element of securing other advanced manufacturing and defence-related contracts of significance, especially in the maritime sector.”

In May, Incat also secured a $109m contract to build a 109-metre high-speed vehicle-passenger ferry for Naviera Armas, in Spain, with delivery scheduled for 2019. The wave-piercer will be able to travel at 35 knots) and carry 1,200 passengers and crew, along with 390 cars. Incat Chairman Robert Clifford said the Hobart shipyard’s 550-strong workforce was expected to deliver up to two large high-speed catamarans each year.

A month earlier in April Incat’s newest high-speed car ferry, the $100m Express 3, was launched and sailed for Denmark after sea trials on the River Derwent.

Incat is the world’s leading producer of high-speed, multi-hull ferries, but its fortunes have waxed and waned with the global ship market. Late last century it was Tasmania’s largest private employer with a 1,000-strong workforce, but the global financial crisis flattened demand and the workforce dwindled to 190. Now it’s all hands on deck again – the shipyard is spending $500,000 to raise the roof of its main construction shed by two metres so that more work can be completed under cover on its largest ships, while recruitment plans include doubling its team of apprentices to about 40.

The company’s founder and Chairman Robert Clifford said: “Over the next six months we will be putting on up to 200 extra people bringing us up to the 700, 750 mark.”

Republished courtesy of Brand Tasmania.