MARCH 13, 2016


STANDING at the helm of his newest catamaran, Bob Clifford is not only enjoying his enduring role as captain – but the irony of the situation.


He is steering the 33m fast ferry before it departs for Sydney, where it will join a growing fleet of Incat vessels on the city’s harbour.


Soon Incat will have 10 new catamarans slicing paths across the majestic waterway.


Four decades ago, when Incat started building ferries in Hobart, Bob tried selling them to authorities controlling the nation’s most hectic harbour.


“In 1977 I tried to sell the first catamaran up there but we were totally unsuccessful,” he says.


“They didn’t like it at all. It ruffled too many feathers.”


Sydney now loves Incat ferries; like the city itself, they are smooth and fast.


The founder of Manly Fast Ferries, Ian Ford, jokes that commuters have raised only one complaint about the 17-minute crossing: “It’s only a one-beer trip.”

Mr Ford received two Incat vessels in December for commuters on the Manly to Circular Quay run, and two more are on their way up to join the ferry company.


Incat is in the process of building six more commuter catamarans for Sydney Harbour after last year winning a NSW Government tender process that attracted international bids.


“Soon our ferries will be all over Sydney Harbour,” says Bob as he eases his vessel out of the Prince of Wales Marina for sea trials.


At 73, the Incat founder and chairman is still full of energy and ambition.


Though he almost sits down for this interview, he doesn’t quite make the chair.


“I have to move a boat,” he says, turning on his heels and striding from his office.


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