PLASTIC PERFECT FOR BOAT
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