Londonderry firm launches new boat for marine leisure industry

North Atlantic Rib Marine Ltd in Derry is being assisted by Invest Northern Ireland to assemble and sell a new range of ASIS Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs), in the European market.

The company, which was set up in November 2007 by Francis O’Loughlin and his two sons, Joseph and Dominic, has acquired the distribution rights for Europe from Solico Trading, based in Dubai, the manufacturer of the boats.  Francis O’Loughlin, an experienced engineer, owns Carnlough Developments while his sons, Joseph and Dominic, already run Oakfield Engineering, a successful business formed in 2001.

The RIBs are imported as ‘open boat shells‘ and the engines, consoles, seats, dive tank rails and electronic equipment are fitted by North Atlantic Rib Marine to suit customer applications.  The company also provides a consultancy service to advise customers on the onboard design, layout and servicing of boats.  

Announcing support for the new company, which is investing over £250,000 to develop the business, Des Gartland, Manager of Invest NI’s North West Regional Office in Derry, said: “This project represents an important diversification for the owners of established and successful businesses in the North West.  It is a high growth project aimed clearly at export markets and offers key benefits in terms of increased turnover, particularly outside of Northern Ireland.”

“Our support for this ambitious start up business is geared to develop its marketing capabilities and to enable it to achieve its export sales objectives. The company is developing high quality boats and will be able to draw on the business skills of its promoters and also the experience they have in sailing and other marine pursuits. The company currently employs three people and the project is expected to create five new, quality jobs by 2010, and to drive exports to 92 per cent of sales over the next two years.

Outlining the company’s plans, Frances O’Loughlin said: “Our decision to move into the boat business was made following extensive market research for an export product that could be assembled and supported from our base in Derry.

“We identified an opportunity to grow our business through an agreement with Solico to provide a successful sea-going boat which is popular in the leisure and sporting marine industry.  The RIB market is now the fastest growth area of the leisure boat market and accounts for 60 per cent of all leisure boats bought in the UK.”

“Our aim will be to seize the opportunities developing fast in the marine leisure market. ASIS also manufactures a full range of RIBs for commercial, police, military and rescue applications including harbour patrol surveillance, coastguard, off-shore reconnaissance and oil platform applications.

“The services we are offering to our customers include own boat tuition to Royal Yachting Association, RYA level two standard, by qualified RYA Instructors, as well as consultancy on the onboard layout design, electronics and boat maintenance.”

“We launched the boats at a recent leisure exhibition on the Isle of Wight and are now setting up a dealer network as part of an aggressive marketing drive. In addition, to support the unique consultancy service that we offer, the directors have completed the Mariners Power Boat Sail certificates and ‘Skippers Ticket’ training.  All future management staff will also undertake this training. This will ensure that we all have a high level of sailing and navigational expertise.

“What attracted us to the ASIS brand of Rigid Inflatable Boat is its reputation as a product developed for the market by Solico’s specialist in-house technical teams.  Each craft is carefully researched and designed to produce exceptional on-water performance with hull design, tube geometry and operational characteristics all giving the boats the outstanding handling, buoyancy, seaworthiness, stability and safety.  Solico is unique in that the company retains control of all the manufacturing processes including fibreglass hull geometry, sponsons (inflatable tubes), consoles, and all main accessories, where as many competitors buy in all the parts.”

There will also be an important spin-off for Oakfield Engineering in terms of engineering work on the design and manufacture of a trailer for each boat and for the maintenance of the vessels.