NSW central coast commercial and recreation boat builder, Steber International is ramping up its presence in the defence market with development of the Bluebottle range of unmanned surface vessels.
A recent contract signed with Thales Australia for the supply five 38ft navy support vessels as part of the SEA1778 Project, further cements the company’s entrance into the defence market and will generate new job opportunities.
“Our current workforce sits at 22 but this is destined to increase with the recruitment of at least 10 specialised staff and apprentices, as we prepare to fulfill the naval support vessel contract,” says General Manager Alan Steber.
The highly innovative Bluebottle unmanned surface vessel project is a collaboration between Ocius Technology and Steber with the drones featuring rigid FRP opening sails and hybrid marine power technology. Steber’s advanced manufacturing facility combined with the ability to customise each Bluebottle has led to the success of the project, says Mr Streber.
The drones provide a low-cost, persistent, wide area ocean surveillance for defence, security, oceanographic, hydrographic and oil and gas applications.
By harvesting wind, wave and solar energy, the Bluebottle is self-propelled, self deployable and retrievable. They provide 20w average electrical power 24/7 for sensors and communications, with several kilowatts maximum power available for escort bursts.
Government grants are assisting in further development of the project, including extensive sea trials.
In another vote of confidence in the company’s manufacturing reputation, Steber has recently won a contract with Thales Australia, to deliver 38ft vessels to the Australian Government as part of the SEA1778 Project.
While continuing the refinement of the Bluebottle, the team at Steber’s 5000 sq m manufacturing facility in Taree is busy designing and producing more traditional composite products. “We are completing a 52ft versatile vessel for Fregate Island Resort on the Seychelles (our second for the resort); refitting small runabouts and even creating water slides,” says Mr Steber.
Work has already started on the first of the Thales 38-footers with the five scheduled for delivery in 2018-19.
These Steber vessels will be turned into unmanned surface vessels (USV) and deploy mine countermeasures systems used to protect Royal Australian Navy (RAN) assets. It will allow fleets to move along strategic routes and through choke points, says Thales Australia. This supports the RAN Mine Counter Measures (MCM) Initial Operations Capability (IOC).
Founded in 1946, Steber originally produced timber clinker hull boats, moving to fibreglass (FRP) construction in 1959.
“Since then, we have built a reputation for premium manufacturer of commercial fibreglass vessels and composite components, with vessels ranging from six to 20 metres,” says Mr Steber.
“Construction of commercial and recreational vessels, large and small refits and an active R & D program, all augers well for our continued growth in the years ahead.”
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Published 04 December 2017 in Connection magazine