Bridge Erection Propulsion Boats

Birdon was contracted by the Defence Material Organisation (DMO) to design and build 24 Bridge Erection Propulsion Boats (BEPBs) for the Australian Army. The vessels were to replace the existing fleet of Bridge Erection Boats (BEB). The $16 million contract included integrated logistic support, technical documentation and initial in-service training.

The project was undertaken in three key stages:

  • Stage 1
    Initial design phase and the development of a proto-type vessel
  • Stage 2
    Engineering and fabrication of twenty-four (24) vessels
  • Stage 3
    Three-year warranty and maintenance support for the vessels located in Darwin, Townsville, Sydney and Brisbane.

Birdon was also successful in its bid to provide Life of Type Extensions services for the BEPBs and is currently repowering and refitting each with Birdon-owned NAMJet water jets for improved slow speed control and overall performance.

Captain Cook III

Birdon undertook an extensive refurbishment of Captain Cook Cruise’s Sydney flagship to modernise this popular function vessel. Birdon was responsible for replacement of hull plating as well as a complete internal upgrade to meet the exacting customer expectations in this competitive entertainment and cruising market.

RMS Ferries

Roads and Maritime Services (formerly RTA) selected Birdon to fabricate and deliver three vehicle ferries. These included the Wisemans and Sackville ferries on the Hawkesbury River as well as the Settlement Point Ferry on the Hastings River.

The project involved the following;

  • Steel fabrication of more than 190 tonnes for each vessel
  • Full internal and external abrasive blasting
  • Application of internal and external paint systems
  • Mechanical installation
  • Hydraulic installation
  • Electrics installation.

Birdon built two of the ferries simultaneously. To do this, Birdon manufactured components across various facilities both on and offsite. All components were then brought together for assembly prior to launch.

US Army Bridge Erection Boats (BEB)

Birdon is currently under contract to deliver 374 Bridge Erection Boats for the US Army at a cost of about US$252M over 4 years.The win was the culmination of four years of design, tender submission and prototype trials, based on Birdon’s Bridge Erection Propulsion Boat design for the Australian Army.

The vessels are road, air and sea transportable and are used to construct and manage floating ribbon (pontoon) bridges for mobile armoured units. When coupled to a bridge section they can also be used to ferry military vehicles across open water.

A key component of the design is the NAMJet propulsion unit (water jet) which provides significantly more thrust at lower speeds than other water jets on the market today whilst maintaining a top speed of more than25 knots.

Technical details

BEBs are a vital mobility asset for any army requiring water crossing capability. They are used to manoeuvre floating modules to create bridges or act as ferries across strategic waterways while also providing thrust anchorage against strong currents during bridge construction and operation.

The importance of this type of bridge system was reinforced during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 when the US Army took only five hours to build a 600-metre ribbon bridge across the Tigris River. This was the longest floating bridge constructed in a combat zone since WWII.

The US Army BEBs have Namjet Traktor water jets which produce 30% more thrust and a significantly higher top speed of 24 knots. Namjet (North American Water Jet) is now owned by Birdon.

Production details

Birdon is currently delivering an initial run of 25 vessels –known as the Low Rate Initial Production phase (LRIP) –for a fixed sum of just over US$9 million. This LRIP phase is being used to finalise key design factors and bed down production processes before final delivery targets are set and full production begins.The first 25 BEBs –the LRIP vessels –are being built by Birdon America at its Denver facility. LRIP is due to complete at the end of 2017 and will be followed by the construction of up to 374 production BEBs over the next four years with a potential contract value of $US252 million.

Newcastle Port Pilot Boat

Birdon designed, constructed and delivered the 16-metre pilot vessel Henry Newton. The Henry Newtonwas built and surveyed to full Lloyds Classification.

The new 16m Pilot Cutter ‘Henry Newton’ was delivered to Newcastle Port Corporation on the 30th of October 2011.

Birdon partnered with internationally acclaimed designers Camarc for this project to design and build a new pilot vessel for Newcastle Port Corporation.

The vessel is in 2C class New South Wales Maritime Survey and is also built to Lloyds Register of Shipping 100+.

Henry Newtown can operate in the most challenging conditions and will serve to transport pilots safely to and from ships in the Newcastle area over the next 30 years.

Regional Patrol Craft

Birdon was selected by the Australian Defence Force to design and construct a fleet of 16 Regional Patrol Craft including trailers.

The vessels are integral to the Regional Force Surveillance Unit (RFSU) and Border Protection Force operations.

With these vessels, the army has the capability to operate in blue,brown, riverine, and brackish waters supporting smaller watercraft up to 12 nautical miles offshore.

The vessels are also suitable for the harsh Australian coastline –having been designed and built to insert, extract and support foot patrols and provide parent craft aid to other vessels in remote areas.

The vessels have been built in accordance with the Lloyds Register classification at Birdon’s accredited, all weather, aluminium fabrication facility at Port Macquarie.

They are 8.2m in length with a beam of 2.8m and can carry a full patrol plus crew. Each vessel is powered by a 355 hp Cummins engine, driving a Hamilton Water Jet, which can propel a fully laden RPC to speeds of 25 knots.

Norfolk Island passenger and cargo vessels

Birdon recently secured a $4.68 million tender to design and construct four new vessels to service Norfolk Island. Design work is underway with construction of the vessels expected to begin early 2018.