High-performance Tasmanian aluminium ships in demand worldwide

Kellie Moore | May 16th, 2022
Crafted with Capral

Richardson Devine Marine Constructions (RDM) is one of Australia’s most recognised aluminium shipbuilders, with a proven record of building a diverse range of craft.

From Zanzibar to Japan, commercial operators worldwide seek out its passenger ferries, luxurious overnight cruise vessels, and offshore workboats. Each one built to its clients exacting requirements including the ever-popular MONA ferry decked out as an “evil billionaire’s lair” to transport gallery visitors between Hobart and its famous Museum of Old and New Art.

Ron Devine and his business partner Toby Richardson started their business in 1989 from a waterfront Hobart warehouse. They now work with a 55-strong team from a purpose-built shipyard within Tasmania’s shipbuilding precinct on the shores of Prince of Wales Bay.

Their 1500-square-metre construction facility lets RDM build two vessels side-by-side, simultaneously while fitting out a third vessel alongside, on the water. “We can be working on three boats at all stages from keel laying to handover,” Ron comments.

RDM’s full-service wharf facilitates final fit-outs and after-sales service; innovative hydraulically hinged ramp launches and retrieves vessels with ease. Prefabricated modules, frames and components are produced and delivered from RDM’s nearby manufacturing facility where RDM also maintain its stocks of aluminium plate and extrusion.

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Ron explains, they choose to build using high-quality Australian aluminium because its lightweight strength contributes to the high performance of their craft. “If a catamaran will carry 600 to 700 people, it needs strength and structural integrity, but also needs to be light enough to reach high speeds.”

Capral has been a long-term partner, supplying RDM since its start-up 30 years ago. Capral supply custom aluminium extrusions, T-bars, aluminium sheet and specialist flat-bars that are used by RDM. Over those 30 years, Ron notes Capral has continually developed its products and services to make it easier for RDM to build its boats.

“Capral is so much more than just a supplier. Their team in Tasmania are very hands-on, visiting us regularly, continually reviewing their current supply of materials, also considering how new extrusions could impact positively on our overall productivity and operating efficiencies, making it more cost-effective to build our boats.”

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In addition to their carefully chosen commercial partnerships, Ron says the other factors that set RDM apart in the market are their craftsmanship and after-sales service. “Tasmania has always had a strong ship and boat building tradition and industry, attracting, and developing an expert workforce. Our guys are highly skilled in multiple trades – they can all do anything from welding to a plumbing fit-out. Our team take enormous pride in our reputation for producing high-quality Australian-made vessels that service international waters. We are all genuinely proud of what we create.”

RDM is continually advancing the strength and expertise of its team, taking on highly skilled tradespeople and looking out for the next generation of tradespeople joining the industry. Its skills focus contributes to Tasmania’s recognition worldwide as a centre of excellence and innovation in boat and shipbuilding.

The craftsmanship and innovation of the RDM team have earned many repeat orders from clients. Ron effortlessly reels off a list of clients who regularly return with new orders: “We are building our eighth vessel for an African client, have built two for a Japanese client and nine for one Tasmanian operator.”

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Current builds include a 53-metre catamaran passenger ferry for African client Azam Marine of Tanzania, to be named Kilimanjaro VIII. The vessel will be longer and broader than the Kilimanjaro VII delivered by RDM in 2019, measuring 53m by 12.5m, with passenger capacity increased from 520 to 620. The new vessel will be delivered in November this year to ferry passengers between the islands of Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania.

RDM built one of its more unusual craft for a Tasmanian operator with very shallow water requirements. Freya, launched in 2018, now provides regular passenger services to Hobart’s famous Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) and private charters. RDM has created Freya for speed, fuel efficiency and a quiet, smooth ride, and its equipment includes a night vision camera for safe evening cruises. The fit-out was themed ‘Evil Billionaire’s Lair’ featuring shag pile, wallaby fur booths and an exotic jungle with tigers and monkeys.

RDM stands out internationally for its shipbuilding craftsmanship, ingenuity, and service, with its vessels in demand worldwide. While a big part of its success comes down to its customer focus, Ron recognises the real value of a supportive supply partner. “While we work very closely with each of our clients to achieve the design and build best suited to their requirements, it helps immensely to have a partner of Capral’s calibre to work with.”

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Find our more about RDM Constructions and their partnership with Capral Aluminium in this video created as part of the Crafted with Capral series or download a printable version of this Article.