THE MEDIA VOICE OF THE GLOBAL MARINA INDUSTRY

Keeping it in the family

UK-based WISE Handling looks to the future with new managing director, Paul Illingworth, at the helm. Officially engaged in August 2023, he spent his first six months meeting customers, reviewing service policy and overseeing work on a variety of new orders.

A Wise hoist is integral to operations at Phuket Boat Lagoon in Thailand.

A Wise hoist is integral to operations at Phuket Boat Lagoon in Thailand.

A retired colonel, Illingworth served for 35 years in the British Army, graduating as an explosives engineer with the Royal Logistics Corps, and ending his army career in the General Staff as head of the Ministry of Defence department responsible for all procurement, training and safety for the UK’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and Search community.
As an ‘Illingworth’ he was, however, perhaps destined to have a second challenging career. WISE, established in 1972, is an acronym of Watson, Illingworth & Sutcliffe Engineering and has always been owned and operated by this triumvirate ‘family’.
Paul Illingworth

Paul Illingworth

Peter Illingworth, Paul’s father, used his schoolboy son for free labour to clean out the company van, Paul recalls whimsically, and whilst still at school he completed a project to design a boat cradle that WISE then put into production. He worked during school holidays in the drawing office supporting chief engineer Keith Tubman – but adventure in the army beckoned.
As part of WISE succession planning, Illingworth was invited for interview in December 2022 to replace Barrie Sutcliffe as managing director. He passed the test, but sadly was unable to benefit from the intended extended handover due to Sutcliffe’s untimely death last year.
Looking back
WISE started out manufacturing cantilever racks for the steel industry but, after just a year of operation, built and delivered its first marine hoist to Ridge Wharf Yachting. In 1977, the company clinched its first overseas order, for Vilamoura Marina in Portugal.
HMS Raleigh’s new SP25 self-powered slipway hoist delivered in December 2023.

HMS Raleigh’s new SP25 self-powered slipway hoist delivered in December 2023.

In the 1970s and 80s, the marine business raced ahead of the racking business and became the company’s primary division, and over the next two decades the company expanded its manufacturing facilities in West Yorkshire where machining, shot blasting, fabrication, hydraulic assembly, painting and product testing are conducted.
The portfolio
WISE products cover a complete range of marine hoists, amphibious marine hoists, self-powered slipway hoists, tractor-towed trailer hoists, boat transporters and industrial hoists. Lift capacity varies by product from 10 to 800 tonnes, with variable width and bespoke frame sizes available to order. Across the powered range it offers the latest Tier 5 diesel engines and battery power as a further option. Remote operation is via a Scanreco handset, linked into the hoist electronics pack to give remote diagnostic monitoring of functions.
Rear Admiral Asquith CB takes command of HMS Raleigh’s SP25 controls as VIP guest for the hoist commissioning day.

Rear Admiral Asquith CB takes command of HMS Raleigh’s SP25 controls as VIP guest for the hoist commissioning day.

All designs incorporate durable components that are suited to harsh marine environments. Selected use is made of galvanising, bronze, 316 stainless steel and other maintenance-free components.
Talking to Paul Illingworth
On company strengths:
As a family owned and run organisation, there are distinct advantages regarding the governance of the business and the freedoms at the disposal of the directors and I have been amazed by the passion of the staff to support our customers. There is a huge amount of loyalty to the brand and that is borne out in examples of length of service of key members of staff, such as Malcolm Chapman who recently celebrated 50 years with WISE.
The company is also fortunate to have some new young talent and this is a key focus area we are continuing to invest in, a recent example of which has been the appointment of a new service manager and a design apprentice.
A W50 hoist for Vlaamse Yachthaven Nieuwpoort in Belgium undergoing function and factory load testing before despatch this month (January).

A W50 hoist for Vlaamse Yachthaven Nieuwpoort in Belgium undergoing function and factory load testing before despatch this month (January).

During the first month of my tenure, it was great to meet several of our customers during a tour of the south coast of England and northern Europe and gain operational feedback from the coal face. My primary focus as the new WISE managing director is to ensure we continue to meet our customer requirements and deliver the highest standards of support. The technology employed in our new machines gives us the ability to remotely monitor performance and adjust settings, and we also have a wealth of data that we are beginning to exploit in support of effects based/preventative maintenance.
We will, of course, be judged by our performance, but I am acutely aware of the impact to operational output when a key piece of machinery is off the road and am keen to work closely with our customers to mitigate such impacts.
On export:
As a UK manufacturer our home base is our strongest market, followed by Europe, the Middle East and Asia. China offers an interesting prospect upon which to build existing sales, and South America and Africa are new markets worth exploring. We have recently seen an increasing demand in the industrial sector with orders from Rolls Royce, Siemens and Urenco amongst others. This gives us a unique opportunity to reverse engineer technology employed in our bespoke industrial products into the marine range.
On hybrid and electric:
Personally, I have not witnessed a seismic shift from diesel power to hybrid/electric. The vast majority of enquiries in 2023 were for diesel and those who expressed an interest in hybrid/electric are nervous about the ability to sustain duty cycles in busy yards and the life/cost of a replacement battery. There is no doubt an underlying intent to transition to green energy. However, whereas the balance has tipped in the car industry, the boat handling market is still in the very early stages of transition.
A W320 hoist working at integrated marine services company Base Marine in Exmouth, Western Australia.

A W320 hoist working at integrated marine services company Base Marine in Exmouth, Western Australia.

On hoist trends:
There is definitely a trend for larger capacity hoists. In analysing WISE repeat orders over the past 50 years, we have seen a 20% growth in capacity. This trend is also recognised in broader beams in particular market areas as boat owners switch to catamarans and demand grows in the crew transfer vessel market. The WISE variable width range offers customers the flexibility to cater for a broad span of boats and, coupled with an ability to operate on slipways, has the potential to reduce the infrastructure costs of building a wider dock.
On materials and quality:
As a UK manufacturer and member of Made in Britain we have a drive to source UK products where possible. Our experience of working with customers in the nuclear, aviation and defence sectors has given us a deep understanding of exacting quality control measures and traceability of steel and component parts. Steel is sourced from UK or EU mills and is subject to routine independent quality testing to assure certification. All WISE products come fully CE certified in accordance with BS EN 15011:2020 ‘Crane, bridge and gantry crane’ standards and the company operates to ISO 9000 Quality Management standards.
Ongoing success
A 25 tonne industrial hoist specifically built for Rolls Royce.

A 25 tonne industrial hoist specifically built for Rolls Royce.

Last year was a busy year for WISE, with the final quarter seeing deliveries of a trailer hoist to Emsworth Marina (UK), and three self-powered slipway hoists to Castlepoint Boatyard and FM Marina in the Republic of Ireland, and HMS Raleigh in Cornwall, UK. Factory load testing was successfully completed for a W50 marine hoist due for dispatch to Vlaamse Yachthaven Nieuwpoort in Belgium this month (January) and a new BT25 boat transporter design is nearing completion for Lymington Yacht Haven, UK.
Two further machines are also due for delivery early this year. First is a W60 marine hoist for Premier Marina’s Chichester Marina in the south of England, and the second a W300 marine hoist for a Saudi Arabian customer.
When asked what practical advice Illingworth would give to a yard manager looking to purchase a new piece of yard machinery, he says: “Talk to us. The process of buying a hoist can be a complicated one, and a large capital investment that needs to deliver to expectations. Getting the right specifications to meet the operational demands of the marina is vitally important and cannot be decided on without the right level of consultation.”
If your chosen hoist proves to be the right choice, it’s a solid investment. Dickies Marine Services in the UK has recently bought a second WISE hoist to replace a WISE machine purchased in the early 1970s. Forty years of solid service represent the level of quality that Paul Illingworth values – “and we are looking forward to the next repeat order in 2064!” he smiles.

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