Utility & Commercial Hovercraft

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We supply small hovercraft for almost any role, including Survey, Sampling, Rescue, Standby Vessel, Security, Weed Spraying and more. With a change in the regulations for small hovercraft happening soon in the UK, 2014 will provide a brand new, totally unexploited business opportunity for owners of correctly licensed small hovercraft craft for commercial operations.

This represents a big change for the hovercraft industry. For the last 18 months, Flying Fish have been foremost in negotiations with the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) to prepare a ‘Hovercraft Code of Practice’ which finally sets out relevant regulations allowing hovercraft to operate commercially. Previously, the commercial coding of small hovercraft was – to all practical purposes – impossible. This new code has been written by the industry and adds safety as well as brevity to the previous legislation.

From 2014, the smallest hovercraft will now be excluded from the requirement for them to be ‘coded’ when in use close by the shore in coastal/intertidal environments such as catagorised waters, sand, mudflats and beaches. for such commercial operations such as weed and aquatic spraying, bird counts, water sampling, survey operations, geotechnics, crew transfers, mining support, security operations and many other uses such as search and rescue.

british-hovercraft-utility-commercial-4Many inter-tidal areas are easily damaged – sea grasses, molluscs, sea beds and river banks can be devastated by wheeled vehicles, propellers, tracked vehicles and jet drives – or even the weight of a man walking. With less pressure exerted on the surface than the tide creates, hovercraft are the most environmentally sound way of accessing many Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) nature reserves or breeding/nesting and feeding grounds for sea birds. They cause absolutely no environmental damage and any trace of the hovercraft’s passage is wiped away by the next tide.

In the UK, there are only a couple of businesses supplying hovercraft services to businesses needing the access they can provide, so there’s a substantial opportunity for more professional operators to take advantage of the new opportunity. In our many years of small hovercraft operations, we’ve gained an insight into many commercial operations such as survey work, crew transfer, standby safety operations and marine support. In 2010, the Flying Fish team was deployed by Australia’s State Emergency Services to help in the Queensland Flood Relief effort and received a commendation for their efforts. Since then we’ve supplied hovercraft for many commercial applications in locations as diverse as Finland’s frozen seas to UXO operations in Kuwaiti oil pits.

Applying the New Hovercraft Code of Practice to Commercial Operations

The new code comprises three categories, the first two of which are relevant to the craft in our range.

Compliance with the Code in no way obviates the need for hovercraft operations to comply with relevant bylaws made by either local/port or harbour authorities – and of course, Health & Safety legislation. Local authorities may, for instance, have powers to require craft to have insurance, or powers over foreshores and landing places. Additionally, some craft operate both at sea and on inland waterways, so the common approach to craft safety adopted by the major UK Inland Navigation Authorities needs to be observed. It is possible that there will also be ‘local’ requirements made by relevant authorities for the area of operation. It should also be noted that local authorities may also have powers over the use of the foreshore and landing places, and to issue licenses for their use.

‘Ultralight’- Up to 500kgs with up to 4 crew – no passengers.

british-hovercraft-utility-commercial-10Though technically, Ultralights are not part of the code, the Code does exclude them – this means that when working in close proximity to the land and with relevant backup, this category of hovercraft is no longer treated as a ‘vessel’ by the MCA, and are treated in the same way as a piece of work equipment such as a quad, a pontoon or a crane. So, whilst free of a requirement for ‘coding,’ as explained above, there are still permits and legislation to consider, which we can help you with. This category is only applicable to hovercraft used with crew on board – no paying passengers.

The Flying Fish Coastal-Pro has been completely redesigned to fulfill this market demand, remodeling it from a recreational hovercraft into a hovercraft suitable for commercial operations. Simple, rugged, powerful but easy to drive and maintain, it offers great deck space and stability at rest on water

The larger twin-engined BBV500 can also be supplied for commercial operations without requiring coding, though it also fits the ‘Light Hovercraft’ category. This is the hovercraft to consider if a larger load capacity or tools/equipment/machinery are required.

‘Light’  – Up to 1000Kg unladen weight, up to 8 persons including crew and passengers.

british-hovercraft-utility-commercial on waterWith this new classification, there is a clear set of regulations for small hovercraft operating with fare-paying passengers aboard.

Flying Fish have been formative in production of the new Hovercraft Code of Practice and as such, have a full knowledge of the practical aspect of producing a craft for coding under the new scheme.

The BBV500 can be manufactured and equipped to a standard allowing it to be coded for commercial operations. This includes taking fare paying passengers, so hovercraft rides become a viable business option. The BBV500 is also capable of many other demanding roles in almost any environment – from frozen rivers, flood conditions, mud, beaches, sand, grass, shallow or deep water.

If you’re interested in a utility or commercial hovercraft, contact us today to find out more.