NT News - Motoring - - NEWS - By CORTLAN BEN­NETT

HEY’RE plas­tic, fan­tas­tic and made in West­ern Aus­tralia. Poly­line In­dus­tries manag­ing di­rec­tor David Wilkie be­lieves his Jan­dakot fabri­ca­tion firm is on the verge of some­thing big — com­mer­cial boats built en­tirely of poly­eth­yl­ene.

Plas­tic boats don’t cor­rode or con­duct elec­tric­ity. They don’t crack, dent or de­te­ri­o­rate. They don’t need paint or anti-foul­ing.

They’re light, cheap and highly durable. Best of all, they’re lit­er­ally un­sink­able.

‘‘The ma­te­rial floats on its own, so in the event that some­thing does go wrong the boat’s go­ing to float,’’ Mr Wilkie said.

‘‘It will never sink — ever. I know it’s a big state­ment, but I’ve filled th­ese boats up with wa­ter be­fore, and they just ... float.’’

The boats in ques­tion are two 10.2m ves­sels dubbed the Yikara and Pi­parn.

‘‘Th­ese are the big­gest fab­ri­cated plas­tic boats in the world, but they’re also the big­gest con­ven­tional hulls,’’ Mr Wilkie said.

Poly­line In­dus­tries spe­cialises in heavy-duty plas­tic con­tain­ers, tanks and pipe fit­tings for the min­ing, oil and gas in­dus­tries.

But Mr Wilkie is also a keen boater and 10 years ago de­cided to build a ves­sel made en­tirely of plas­tic to see if it could be done.

‘‘We in­tro­duced plas­tics to the min­ing game,’’ he said.

‘‘The rea­son we were suc­cess­ful is the same rea­son th­ese boats will be suc­cess­ful — be­cause the plas­tics will take im­pact.

‘‘Trucks can hit the items we sup­ply and they will re­cover and still be us­able, un­like met­als or fi­bre­glass, which will just shat­ter and break.

T‘‘We’re quite proud of that in­no­va­tion, but ob­vi­ously my pas­sion is still with boats. ‘‘So it started off with a 12ft boat be­cause I was told you couldn’t do it — it wouldn’t work — so we built one and we still have it.

‘‘From there, I learnt that I wasn’t a boat de­signer, so I’ve used naval ar­chi­tects ever since, and we’ve just built bet­ter and bet­ter boats.’’

Poly­line uses alu­minium boat­build­ing tech­niques and de­signs.

The dif­fer­ence is that ev­ery­thing — from the handrails to the bol­lards, cabin shelv­ing and con­sole — is made of plas­tic.

The only non-plas­tic items on the Yikara and Pi­parn are the glass win­dows and en­gines — 430hp Yan­mar diesels with Hamil­ton jet­propul­sion units.

‘‘They’re very quiet. They don’t pound,’’ Mr Wilkie said of the shock-ab­sorbent hulls.

‘‘We’ve got boats in the wa­ter that have been there for 10 years now and are still in the same con­di­tion as when we first built them.’’

Mr Wilkie said his com­pany was now where WA-based in­ter­na­tional boat-builder Austal Ships was 30 years ago.

Austal pi­o­neered large-scale alu­minium boat-build­ing and now sup­plies navies and ferry op­er­a­tors, and builds lux­ury ves­sels.

‘‘The pos­si­bil­i­ties with plas­tic are end­less, es­pe­cially for mil­i­tary use,’’ Mr Wilkie said.

‘‘It’s noise-ab­sorbent, al­most in­vis­i­ble to radar and is not mag­netic, so could be used for minesweep­ers.

‘‘So far our boats have been stronger, faster, lighter and in ev­ery way, shape and form are out­per­form­ing their spec­i­fi­ca­tions.’’

HEAVY DUTY: Poly­line have just built and launched the word’s first poly­eth­yl­ene work boats

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