One of Yamba’s biggest employers – Yamba Welding & Engineering (YWE) – announced today an exciting new chapter in its enduring regional history.
The family-owned boat manufacturing business is to be acquired by cutting-edge Australian watercraft company The Whiskey Project Group which is committed to securing local jobs and boosting the region’s Covid19-impacted economy.
Led by two former Royal Australian Navy veterans, The Whiskey Project Group heralds a new era of Australian maritime capability, with YWE and naval architecture firm Naiad joining sister company The Whiskey Project to form The Whiskey Project Group – an 100% owned Australian watercraft design and manufacturing company which is committed to safeguarding the region’s contribution to Australia’s Sovereign manufacturing capability through the continuation of YWE’s local boat building legacy.
Founded by Bill Collingburn in 1974, YWE has evolved into a thriving operation employing 36 locals, numerous apprentices and a trusted local supply chain. Renowned for their boat building expertise, YWE has forged a reputation as a trusted partner to Australian and State law enforcement and maritime agencies, delivering over 200 watercraft in the past 10 years for police, Marine Rescue, Coast Guard, VMR, other government agencies and more recently, the Australian Defence Force and Australian Border Force.
“This could not come at a better time for the Clarence Valley. At a time when economic uncertainty is high, Government investment in our local Defence industry and the manufacturing sector is robust. YWE are now in a unique position to be talking about growth opportunities, creating jobs, and developing long lasting training and skills programs for the people of this region and their children.” Mr Collingburn said.
Local NSW Member for Clarence and Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Roads and Infrastructure Mr Chris Gulaptis MP, welcomed the acquisition.
“I would like to congratulate the Whiskey Project Group on its strategic acquisition of Yamba’s iconic boat building business, Yamba Welding & Engineering (YW&E). YW&E has delivered hundreds of top-quality vessels for the Australian, State and Territory Governments as well as watercraft for mining companies and private individuals,” Mr Gulaptis said.
“Bill has left a long-lasting legacy in Yamba, one which I feel confident will be enhanced by the expertise of a well reputed maritime operator such as the Whiskey Project Group,” Mr Gulaptis said.
The deal also includes Naiad, the New Zealand based naval architecture business which YWE itself acquired earlier this year. Naiad boats, renowned as the “4WD of the Sea” and for their aesthetic appeal, are built under license around the world. Naiads are popular for a wide range of Federal and State Government military, law enforcement and rescue agency vessels, as well as commercial, tourism, recreational and Superyacht tender applications.
The third business of the Group – The Whiskey Project – launched its next generation tactical watercraft – Whiskey Alpha – to great acclaim at Pacific 2019 International Maritime Expo. The new technology
vessel has created a new global benchmark for performance with its integrated cutting-edge technologies, fit-for-purpose design, complete modularity and design agility.
NSW Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney the Hon Stuart Ayres MP said it was great to see a veteran-owned NSW company like The Whiskey Project Group scaling up operations and safeguarding watercraft production and jobs in NSW.
“We’ve seen cutting-edge technology like the Next Generation Tactical Watercraft from The Whiskey Project Group and it’s great to see them involved now with a long-established NSW business – YWE – that’s been around since 1974,” Mr Ayres said.
“Watercraft are an important part of NSW industry, especially in the regions, and we are determined to maintain this sort of manufacturing capability,” Mr Ayres said.
Mr Darren Schuback, Co-Founder and Managing Director of The Whiskey Project Group, said the acquisition of YWE and Naiad marks the coming together of three great Australian and New Zealand businesses and heralds an exciting future for Australian watercraft design and manufacturing in the northern NSW coastal town.
“Bill has created a legendary legacy as an Australian maritime manufacturer, and as a passionate champion of this region, its industry and its people. It is because of these things that we knew bringing our businesses together, and all that we can achieve together, will make a significant mark here in Yamba and in the Australian, New Zealand, and global maritime industry.” Mr Schuback said.
“Defence NSW assists NSW SMEs such as the Whiskey Project Group to access Federal and State Government programs to stay closely involved in the development of industry capability and export opportunities,” Mr Ayres said.
Bill and his partner Kathie’s legacy is felt keenly in Yamba, as over the years they have invested in their people, their community, and the region’s future. Most importantly, they have prioritised their commitment to YWE’s investment in the local community.
“I’m in my seventies and I wanted to hand the reins to people I like and trust,” said Mr Collingburn. “The Whiskey Project Group are experienced maritime operators, they share my vision for the future, and they are whole-heartedly committed to the continued growth of YWE and the Clarence Valley’s maritime industry,” said Mr Collingburn.
Mr Collingburn, now a shareholder in The Whiskey Project Group, is staying on with YWE as a Technical Advisor as the business moves into its next phase. “The local community has supported YWE for many years, and we in turn, need to keep supporting them. I have no doubt that under the guidance of The Whiskey Project Group, YWE will continue to play a significant role in seeing this region prosper as it deserves to.”
Named after the military callsign ‘Whiskey’ which denotes specialist water operators, The Whiskey Project Group expand an Australian sovereign end-to-end maritime design and manufacturing capability into the heart of regional NSW.
Mr Ryan Carmichael, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of The Whiskey Project Group, acknowledged the natural synergy between YWE’s proven 40 year regional history of building specialist boats for the most challenging sea-faring tasks, and The Whiskey Project Group’s vision to create operator-focused watercraft that provide optimal performance and protection for those who risk their lives in the strategic maritime environment.
“All three of The Whiskey Project Group’s businesses are committed to providing the highest level of performance and protection to the end-user. We are building the boats we wish we’d had when we were in uniform, and genuinely believe that the Yamba community, the Australian maritime industry, and the Australian economy will all benefit from our focus.”
“Yamba is the home of YWE and will continue to be so. We are committed to investing in Yamba’s community, securing local jobs and apprenticeships, and we’re thrilled to be helping to future-proof this vibrant community. At a time when Covid is taking its toll on regional communities, the future of YWE is bright.” Mr Carmichael said.
The contract was announced today, with transaction completion scheduled for Q4 2020.
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