Our latest lobster boat: Force of Nature

Fuel-efficient crayboat delivered to Geraldton fisher

Geraldton-based Dave Perham, a highly experienced operator from Australia’s Western Rock Lobster fishery, has taken delivery of a new lobster boat from Dongara Marine that’s proven to have much lower fuel consumption than comparable vessels.

Completed in late April 2020, some 12 months after contracts were signed, Force of Nature is a 22.4 metre Southerly Designs monohull which, like other recent Dongara Marine fishing and pilot boat newbuilds, combines an aluminium hull with a composite superstructure.

The new boat is an upgrade from Perham’s current vessel, the 17.1 metre Conquest 55 Natural Selection, which was built for him by Sea Chrome Marine in 1994 and which Perham is selling to make way for Force of Nature. For example the live tank capacity for 84 baskets of lobsters is a considerable step up from Natural Selection’s 64 baskets.

Dongara Marine’s Managing Director, Rohan Warr, notes that the apparent jump in vessel size is reflective of industry trends.

“When Natural Selection was built it was pretty much the average size crayboat, perhaps slightly above average if anything. In the 1990s only a handful of new boats, maybe one in every 20, were over 70 feet. Now that’s the average size for new Australian high speed lobster boats, and in fact its more like 75 feet for the Western Australian fishery.

“So, while Force of Nature is quite a bit bigger than its predecessor it’s not overly large by recent standards. That makes a substantial difference in terms of affordability compared to the likes of really big boats like Holdfast and Poppa G,” he explained.

Fine entry on crayboat Force of Nature for Geraldton lobster fishing
Force of Nature is some 30 per cent bigger than its predecessor in terms of length and lobster capacity

Dongara Marine takes the lead role again

As with those two previous fishing boat builds, Dongara Marine was the prime contractor for the Force of Nature project, taking with full responsibility for the vessel’s design, construction, and delivery.

Dongara Marine already had three newbuilds and a major refit underway when Perham confirmed he wanted to go ahead with the project, so it was decided that Peter Ellis’s boatbuilders in Geraldton would fabricate the hull structure.

“I know Peter and his team do a good job, and they did,” Perham said, adding: “By the same token having seen the aluminium work Rohan’s guys do I would have been equally happy for them to have done the fabrication.”

Once the bare hull was trucked to Port Denison, the Dongara Marine team set to work fitting it out, including all the main machinery as well as the many mechanical, hydraulic and electrical systems that go in to a modern high speed lobster boat.

Engine room on new Southerly crayboat Force of Nature for Geraldton lobster fishing
All fitout was undertaken by Dongara Marine

They also applied their expertise in resin-infused composite manufacture to produce the boat’s wheelhouse and then bond it to the hull, as well as completing all the interior and exterior fitout including painting.

Onboard facilities meet the AL36-72 specifications in the National Standard for Commercial Vessels (NSCV) enabling the vessel to remain at sea with seven people onboard for up to three days. This entails equipping Force of Nature with features that are not required at the lower survey standard of a typical day/overnight boat.

Included within the crew accommodation, which is temperature controlled throughout, are three dedicated sleeping compartments totalling seven berths, including one queen size bed. While on some vessels personnel may have to pass through cabins to reach machinery or tanks spaces, on Force of Nature this is not necessary. This helps to enhance the ability to rest.

Wheelhouse of new Southerly crayboat Force of Nature for Geraldton lobster fishing
The spacious wheelhouse is constructed of resin infused composites reducing noise, vibration, and weight while delivering very quality finishes

The composite wheelhouse has the helm station aft on the port side, with the galley plus a mess area that exceeds survey seating requirements to starboard. A self-contained shower and head compartment is located on the work deck immediately aft of the wheelhouse and adjacent to the flybridge access.

“The facilities and quality of finish, low noise, and low vibration make conditions onboard very comfortable,” Perham said, “and they are certainly a step up on what most older boats have.”

New Southerly crayboat Force of Nature for Geraldton lobster fishing
Plenty of space for pots on the work deck, below which there are tanks for 84 baskets of crays

Engine selection continues relationship

Natural Selection has been Scania-powered since new, including two re-powers, and the new boat keeps the relationship between vessel owner and engine supplier intact.

On Force of Nature, twin Scania DI16 076M engines rated for 662kW (900hp) at 2300rpm each drive a fixed pitch propeller via a ZF gearbox. On trials this combination gave the fishing boat a maximum speed of 24.5 knots and 18.5 knots cruise speed, each about 1.5 knots above expectations. This performance was achieved with the boat’s 7500 litre fuel tanks full.

Engine room on new Southerly crayboat Force of Nature for Geraldton lobster fishing
Dave Perham is a long time user of Scania engines and has twin 900hp DI16 076Ms in Force of Nature

While Force of Nature is by no means slow, having worked the Western Rock Lobster fishery for more than 40 seasons, Dave Perham considers reliability and economy more important than speed.

“I’m not the kind of skipper that runs at wide open throttle,” he said. “What’s important to me is knowing I can rely on the boat, and the engines, to be ready to fish whenever the market conditions are right.”

The choice of engine rating reflects this: while the engines are available with higher output, those on Force of Nature are at a rating that enables unlimited operating hours per year.

“Scania engines have given me excellent reliability over the years, Southerly Designs boats also have proven longevity, and the quality of the workmanship throughout the boat’s structure and systems gives me absolute confidence that I can depend on Force of Nature to deliver the outstanding performance it produced on trials for many, many years to come,” Perham said.

Major fuel savings achieved

Careful planning means the cruise speed is achieved when the engines achieve the best fuel efficiency, which Warr says is a factor in making the latest crayboat highly economical to operate.

“With Force of Nature we are seeing fuel consumption that is about 20 per cent less than on other recent vessels with the same hullform.

“That benefit is not just from the engines; we’ve put in place a range of other tweaks that improve the owner’s bottom line as well."

Rohan Warr, Managing Director, Dongara Marine
New Southerly crayboat Force of Nature for Geraldton lobster fishing
Trials confirmed speed was about 1.5 knots above initial expectations and fuel consumption well down on comparable vessels

Along with reliability, the seakindly performance of Force of Nature also contributes to Perham’s ability to go and fish effectively and efficiently whenever he wants to.

“Living and fishing out of Geraldton you can’t escape talking about, and seeing, how different boats perform in adverse sea conditions,” Perham notes.

“That means you become very familiar with the Southerly name because it has been synonymous with excellent seakeeping and handling for, literally, decades,” he adds.

Dave Perham, owner and skipper, Force of Nature

This newest lobster boat incorporates the same core hull design features that have contributed to this reputation: pronounced flare at the bow; a fine entry; large deadrise angle forward; twin, large skegs; and twin pintle rudders. In addition to reducing roll and improving course-keeping, the skegs provide full protection to the propellers from bottom contact and also reduce the likelihood of entangling ropes in the props.

Fine entry on crayboat Force of Nature for Geraldton lobster fishing
Pronounced flare and fine entry contribute to the famous Southerly seakeeping

Established partnership guarantees outcomes

Force of Nature is the twelfth new Southerly Designs vessel that Dongara Marine has been involved in constructing in the past five years, and another is close to completion at the boatbuilder’s facility in Port Denison.

“While its not an exclusive arrangement, Dongara Marine’s relationship with Southerly Designs goes right back to company’s beginning,” Rohan Warr commented. “Our recent track record with them build on that history, and has really proven and further developed the strengths and benefits of our partnership.”

Of those 12 recent projects, six vessels have been over 20 metres in length, with another three being 19.2 metre long Berkeley Class pilot boats.

“Aside from the big export shipyards, there can’t be many, if any, other Australian boatbuilders who have produced similar sized boats in such quantities, and with such consistency, in recent years,” Warr said.

While Warr says this experience means Dongara Marine provides buyers of such vessels with greater surety of contractual and technical performance, he notes the imperative to be flexible.

“While our really large crayboats like Holdfast and Poppa G capture a lot of attention, and we enjoy building them, we definitely don’t focus all our efforts on building boats like that because its not sustainable,” he said.

Two Southerly lobster fishing boats Force of Nature and Holdfast
Two Dongara Marine crayboats: Force of Nature with the 26 metre Holdfast

“Building Force of Nature has been a great experience, and we are really proud of the boat. It's always a great feeling to deliver a new boat, and thanks go to all involved, but especially the owner Dave Perham and his family. Without owners like them we couldn't do what we love to do: build great boats.

Rohan Warr

“Of course the last six months have been challenging for everyone, and certainly for the lobster industry. We feel really fortunate to have been able to keep working, keep people employed, and keep business flowing through to our suppliers. All of that stems from the ongoing support of our customers.

“Fortunately our flexibility means we have a variety of other projects underway and in development, and that puts us in a better position to weather the storm and maintain our capability for better times ahead,” Warr concluded.

For Specifications and additional photos of this and other vessels visit our Projects page here.