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Boatbuilders celebrate biggest contract

PUBLISHED: 13:00 05 February 2010 | UPDATED: 07:56 02 July 2010

Stephen Pullinger

A family-run Broads boatbuilding and repairs firm has defied choppy economic waters by landing the biggest contract in its 32-year history.

A family-run Broads boatbuilding and repairs firm has defied choppy economic waters by landing the biggest contract in its 32-year history.

The 32 staff of Goodchild Marine, at Burgh Castle, near Great Yarmouth, were last night celebrating clinching the order for two 17-metre pilot boats placed by Estuary Services, which runs pilotage services at ports across the South-East.

Boss Alan Goodchild, 53, who runs the Butt Lane firm with his wife Sue, 49, said: “The contract will provide us with three years work in total.

“These vessels, based on a French hull design, are set to revolutionise the pilot industry with their fuel efficiency. We have secured the UK market for the design and have already got other potential orders lined up.”

At a time when many boatyards have been struggling through the recession, Goodchild Marine has been going from strength to strength.

Even ahead of the latest order the yard has been busy building a smaller pilot boat for the port of Calais, an Aqua Bell Trojan work boat for a customer in Northern Ireland and an electric launch among other contracts.

And Goodchild staff are also involved in an ongoing project to dredge Wells harbour for windfarm operations, having originally designed and built the dredger last year.

Mr Goodchild admitted the start of the downturn had hit them hard and they had been forced to lay off a number of employees after losing a major contract to a boatyard in Holyhead.

But the company bounced back in 2009, landing a number of lucrative orders and expanding its workforce again to the present total.

He said they would be cautious and not continue to expand the workforce too rapidly in case there was another downturn.

However, that strategy would benefit other boatyards in the region as they would be sub-contracting work to them, he added.

Mr Goodchild said their reputation for quality work had helped them through the recession.

He said: “When people do spend, they want to see value for money and you have got to be efficient in what you do and look after the costs of the yard.”

The company will be exhibiting at a boat show in Windsor next month, displaying one of the electric passenger boats it has built for Norfolk Wildlife Trust for use on the Broads.

Do you have a business story for the Evening News? Contact reporter Sam Williams on 01603 772447 or sam.williams@archant.co.uk.

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