Robert Clifford has spent four decades developing and improving the high- speed vehicle/passenger ferry industry.
As founder and chairman of Incat Tasmania and its associated companies, Clifford is said to be responsible for the construction of about 40% of the world’s large high-speed vehicle ferries as well as pioneering the introduction of large-high speed catamarans into the US military service.
It is this commitment to the manufacturing industry that saw him take out the Endeavour Awards’ new category, Lifetime Achievement Award.
As a manufacturer, Clifford’s creativity, innovation and continual product development has driven the company’s 100% export focus, while taking the Incat brand to the world as a flagship for Tasmania and Australia.
According to award judges, Clifford’s contribution to the aluminium catamaran design and production is without peer.
“Many of the technical problems he has solved would seem impossible to many of us. His dedication and focus is exceptional,” the judges said.
Former Incat managing director, John Harris, accepted the award on behalf of Clifford who is currently in Europe on business.
On accepting the award, Harris described Clifford as a ‘true entrepreneur’ and shared a humorous story which reflected the lifetime achiever’s love of boats.
“When Robert was a child he constructed a ship in his bed room and then had to convince his dad to take his mom on a long drive so he could knock down some brickwork in the room to get the boat out,” Harris said.
“He has been absolutely committed to manufacturing, in Tasmania in particular, but also Australia in general,” Harris told Manufacturers’ Monthly.
“I think if you look at how long Robert’s been in the industry – well it’s a comparatively rare achievement these days.
“Robert has always had an interest in the sea and boats and has never been interested in money but rather perfecting the product.”
According to Harris, the Incat founder will be, in his modest way, very proud of the award.
“I can’t pretend it’s the first award that Robert’s ever won but it will mean a lot to him there’s no doubt about it. I mean it’s a fairly significant award, the name says it all,” Harris said.
The former Incat employee adds the recognition will also reinforce the fantastic job Incat employees have done over the years.
The Incat Group is an evolution from the construction of the early 1970’s small conventional steel hulled vessels, to light weight catamarans and eventual ly to the world record holding Wave Piercing catamaran.
These ferries, which initially revolutionised transport links around the United Kingdom, are now also operating in North and South America, Asia, Australia, the Canary Islands, the Middle East and Europe and the Mediterranean.
Since its inception, Incat has built more than 66 vessels of varying lengths.
Clifford has been awarded an honorary doctorate in engineering by the University of Tasmania for his contribution to the industry and has won over 30 industry awards for the company.
Although Clifford has formally retired, he still works hard for the company, splitting his time between Tasmania and the United Kingdom.
According to Incat, the manufacturer is still the main driver and ideas man for vessel design changes, modifications and updated vessel features. He now focuses his attention on customer relations, consulting and sales and marketing.