Air loving boat can really fly

A REVOLUTIONARY transport system could be operating in Gladstone within a year dramatically cutting travel costs and distance along our coastal waterways.

In less than six months and perhaps in as little as four months time, Sea Eagle International hopes to be in Gladstone to demonstrate its six seater Wing in Ground (WIG) Effect Craft a forerunner to a 20 seater craft to be built later.

The WIG craft skims between one and three metres above sea or ground at about 150km/h.

The company plans to run a ferry service between Rockhampton/Yeppoon, Heron Island and the reef and Agnes Water/1770.

Gladstone businessman Lex Wilmot, who is promoting Sea Eagle International said the company's CEO Chris Holloway has been to Gladstone several times to look at the prospects of setting up a passenger and freight service here.

He said subject to obtaining finance to set up in Australia, Gladstone looked likely to be one of the first places the have a viable WIG craft service.

If all arrangements went well, the craft components will be sent to Gladstone from the company's joint venture partner in China and assembled here.

“How soon we can get up and running depends on regulation agreements and whether we get approval for a hangar facility - an ideal site would be near the Gladstone Yacht Club,” he said.

The first operation of the WIG craft in Australia will be in Victoria with a service between Geelong and St Kilda.

The craft is expected to arrive in Melbourne in about four months. Soon after it will be brought to Gladstone for demonstration.

“The craft is faster than a boat and cheaper than a plane to operate - as it is fuelled by diesel, it's much cheaper than aircraft which use high octane fuel.”

Mr Willmot said the company is to negotiate with the Gladstone Ports Authority, which has control of the Gladstone Harbour about its proposal for a ferry service operating from Gladstone.

Mr Holloway, speaking from Melbourne yesterday, told The Observer the six-seater model to be used in Melbourne would arrive from China.

“We have a deal that the joint venturer in China will build the six-seater models and we will build the subsequent 20 seater model in Australia,” he said.

“The Chinese partner will distribute in China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, and we will look after the rest of the world.”

Mr Holloway, who has nearly 40 years of experience in WIG craft, said the company was seeking financial investment to set up in Australia.

He said the company already has $26 million in orders for the six-seater craft already in production and the 20 seater craft expected to be in production possibly in Geelong, in 12 to 18 months.

Financial investors are invited to refer to the Sea Eagle International website.

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