The history of Stabicraft


Stabicraft has come a long way since we wrote this article about the history of the company way back in 2006…

The first Stabicraft – a small rugged and unsinkable pontoon-style alloy boat – was built in Invercargill in 1987.

It was to be used by paua divers to get from their main fishing vessel to close inshore. The safety afforded by the buoyancy and stability of the rigid pontoons was a prime consideration and soon formed the basis of the philosophy behind every Stabicraft boat built since.

Stabicraft Marine Ltd has grown to become one of the great success stories in the New Zealand marine industry. It has a reputation for building tough, no nonsense but intrinsically safe boats.

While the early boats could never be described as beautiful, the design of the model range has evolved over time such that there is now a strong acceptance in the marketplace of the Stabi’s purposeful and rugged "good looks".

Design evolution

In 1997, Generation 2 pontoons were incorporated into the basic design. The deeper cross section of the alloy pontoons provided for higher sides and greater freeboard, while the slimmer shape allowed increased internal beam for greater cockpit space and storage.

Stepped chines gave improved lift, better handling and a drier ride. Cable ducting was routed inside the pontoons while a revised clipping system for fendering on the outer hull was incorporated. The overall design of the new pontoons allowed for greater rigidity and increased lateral strength.

The product range has also grown with 25 standard models (2006) ranging from 4.3m to 8.95m. In addition, the company custom-builds boats as required for specific projects, including a 14m boat for Dolphin Encounter in Kaikoura.

In 1996, the company released the 550XC, the first model aimed at the family and recreational market. Until then, the company’s prime focus was on the diving/fishing/commercial market.

In 1999, the range was split, with models denoted "Fish’r" and "XR Sport" to distinguish the fishing/diving/commercial models from the family/recreational models.

In recent times, the company has seen growth in the larger hard top and super cab models and this is consistent with other manufacturers. The majority of Stabicraft models have been designed for outboard power systems, with the larger models often fitted with twin engine installations.

Production development

Since the late 1980s, the company has experienced steady growth and has made a variety of changes in its production facilities to meet this demand. In 1999, production increased from 250 boats per annum to around 400 units, and by 2003, a partial second shift was employed to meet orders for 420 boats that year.

By October 2004, the company seriously needed to address production capacity and announced plans for a new factory on the same site on the outskirts of Invercargill. It subsequently opened in May 2005. The new factory (2006) has seen production numbers double from 600 units to in excess of 1000 units per year. It is, however, capable of producing in excess of 4000 units per year. In addition to the additional factory space, Stabicraft Marine Ltd also uses state-of-the-art production technologies to achieve the required volume of outputs without compromising the build quality of the finished product.

The new Generation 2 pontoons are extruded rather than being cut and rolled and all components are precision cut and pressed using CNC equipment for greater accuracy. Some of the larger super cab models utilise GRP top decks that are bonded to the alloy hulls, while other models are fully formed in alloy.

Export developments

The first Stabicraft boats were exported in 1988 when two dinghies and three runabouts were sold to British Columbia in Canada. In 1992, a distributor in the US was appointed while Thanetcraft Aluminium Boats was licenced to build Stabicraft boats in the UK, where they are sold and marketed under the Thanetcraft brand.

In 1994, the first Stabi’s were exported to Australia. Three years later, Trans Tasman Marine was appointed as Stabicraft distributors in Australia where they opened up the market and introduced the brand to the United Nations and aid relief agencies.

Stabicraft Marine Ltd currently has 17 dealers servicing the domestic market, 10 in Australia, three in the US and one in New Caledonia.

In 2008 Stabicraft built a second factory and dedicated service centre, and released the Generation 3 Pontoon and sent eight purpose-built 589 Frontier Alaskan Specials into Alaska.

In 2011 they introduce Arrow pontoons improving ride and handling further.

Nowadays around 600 boats are turned each year by a dedicated staff of 70, with 16 dealers in NZ 14 in Australia, 3 in the US, and one each in Canada and New Caledonia. The future is bright for the deep south factory, and rumour has it the new Project Carbon series of boats may just be game changers yet again.

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