Neil Marine wins back-to-back Presidential and NCE boatbuilding export awards | Daily News


Neil Marine wins back-to-back Presidential and NCE boatbuilding export awards

Neil Marine Chairman Neil Fernando receives the award
Neil Marine Chairman Neil Fernando receives the award

Pioneering Sri Lankan boatbuilder Neil Marine’s contribution to Sri Lanka’s economic growth has been recognised by the Presidential Export Awards (PEA) and National Chamber of Exporters (NCE).

As it celebrates 50 pioneering years in the industry, the company, one of South Asia’s leading manufacturers of commercial fishing, pleasure and work boats, has won the prestigious PEA Best Exporter Award – Boat & Pleasure Craft Building.

The award was presented to Neil Marine Chairman Neil Fernando during the PEA ceremony at the BMICH conference and exhibition centre in Colombo,sponsored and organised by the Export Development Board (EDB).

A day later, Neil Marine’s export successes were also recognised by the NCE with a top award for excellence in the Boat & Shipbuilding & Repair Service Sector.

The PEA awards were much deserved pats on the back for the many Sri Lankan companies that have made significant contributions to the country’s exports across a range of industries and services over the past 12 months.

Benchmarks included export turnover, number of jobs created, market diversification, growth rate, and the amount of added value, particularly in non-traditional products and service sectors.

Fifty years ago, Neil Fernando, an engineer by training, saw the potential of glass-reinforced plastic (GRP, or fiberglass) as a better alternative to the traditional wood for small inshore fishing boats.

His first boat was the forerunner of the now ubiquitous outboard-powered open 19-footer which is still the mainstay of fishing communities all around the island.It was an immediate success, and remains a cornerstone of the company’s production centre on the shore of Negombo lagoon. It quickly led to the development of a bigger boat complete with enclosed wheelhouse and crew accommodation, which became the forerunner of today’s fleet of multi-day boats ranging in length from 28ft to 75ft, of which 40ft and above are also long-liners.

With the design and production expertise gained during these early years, Neil Fernando turned his attention to specialist utility and pleasure boats, including those catering to the tourism and hospitality industries.

A major export breakthrough occurred 25 years ago when he partnered with Menken Maritiem of Holland to manufacturer its full range of leisure and pleasure craft, including the 50-ft Duchess blue-water yacht.

At the same time, he was building export markets for the fishing boats on which he had made his name and reputation, including in the Seychelles, Madagascar, Maldives, the Gulf, and the Horn of Africa, the latter thanks to sponsorship by the United Nations.

Much of Neil Marine’s success over the past 50 years has been due to close collaboration with world-renowned naval architects such as David Freeman of the United Kingdom and De Jager & Simhony of Holland.

Meanwhile, the company was awarded the prestigious Lloyds Approved Status, plus approval to construct vessels under such International classification bodies as DNV (Det Norske Veritas), the IRS (Indian Register of Shipping), and ABS (American Bureau of Shipping).

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