Nautic Africa has launched its new Guardian series of rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIBs), designed for maritime security, environmental protection and the oil industry. Deliveries to the first customer, Ghana, will take place next week.
A Ghanaian oil company will operate six of the Guardian BR850 boats under a lease agreement. The first boat was sent off to Ghana in December and is scheduled to arrive there next week. Cape Town-based Nautic Africa, which recently established a permanent presence in Ghana, is offering a turnkey solution to the company, with the boats being crewed by the Ghana Navy.
In December 2012 Nautic Africa received a second order for the Guardian. Eight boats were ordered by an unspecified African country, which is a new client for Nautic. This customer will operate the RHIBs from mother vessels as part of a total package. Each mother vessel will carry two Guardian boats.
James Fisher, Managing Director of Nautic Africa, said he has long had a passion to build the ultimate commercial/military rigid-hulled inflatable boat (although technically the Guardian is not an inflatable boat as it has a collar containing foam rather than air). “With our growing network of clients in Africa, there is definitely a market,” he said.
Fisher said there are several advantages of operating a RHIB compared to larger vessels, such as being closer to the water and having lower operating costs than larger, heavier boats. Nautic said the boat is suited for oil rig maintenance, repairs and security; search and rescue; illegal fishing patrols; as well as special forces combat activity due to its militarised design and construction.
“We are very excited about the Guardian range. It represents the culmination of years in research and development to provide a solid and practical naval solution,” said Fisher. “Working with large oil companies, it became clear that small boats are vital for the maintenance and repair of oil rigs. The nimbleness, robustness, adaptability and speed of deployment of the Guardian BR850 also make it suited to any rapid response, security-related maritime requirement.”
The Guardian family is available in three different lengths: 8.5, 10 and 12 metres. The 8 metre variant is in production now, but the 12 metre model may be built soon as Nautic is pitching this boat to meet a requirement in Nigeria.
Various engines and propulsion systems can also be fitted, including waterjets or stern drives. Nautic said that the v-bottom hull design coupled with a VGT marine diesel power plant allows the Guardian BR850 to reach speeds in excess of 40 knots.
The boat can be customised with navigation and communication equipment as well as radars, spotlights and other equipment. Weapons can be added – the boats for the undisclosed African country will feature front-mounted 12.7 mm machineguns. Ballistic protection is available using Nautic’s SuperShield armour, which protects to NATO Level 3+. However, as this adds a couple of tons of weight, this is only recommended for the two longer boats.
Sea trials of the Guardian BR850 began in December last year. Fisher said his company was very happy with the way it performed in the water, although a few slight modifications turned out to be necessary. South African special forces were present when the Guardian was first put into the water, keeping an eye on the latest boat developments. Fisher said that although they may want some more customised solutions in their vessels, they responded positively to the design.
Fisher said that there is demand from riverine countries and West African nations for the Guardian, but added that a lot of demand is for a ‘total solution’ involving boats and mother ships. The Guardian series feature a single-point hoist mechanism, manufactured by Hendriksen Hooks, making it easy for mother ships to hoist the boat onto the water.
Nautic Africa already counts a number of customers in West Africa, notably Nigeria. At the end of this month the company will have a vessel sail to Nigeria for delivery to the AGIP oil and petroleum company, a new Nautic customer.