by Bob Wonders
Walcon Marine’s managing director James Walters freely admits that travel is not one of his favourite past times, yet it’s something he feels he is destined to do more of.
Peter Stanley, James Walters and Andy Goss
He rates Australia as virtually his 'second home', landing in the land down under at least three times each year ('I should really be there more often,' he quickly added), as well as regular trips across the English Channel to the company’s operations in Holland and Belgium.
A Master of Engineering from the University of Portsmouth, James Walters sets the same tough schedule for himself that his father Robin adhered to when he founded the company in 1964.
As James recalled, Robin Walters, still chairman of the board, was involved with a wall project on the UK’s River Hamble; he saw a contractor arrive on site with an array of steel drums and timber to form marina pontoons.
'Robin took one look and decided he could do better and the rest, as they say, is history with Walcon Marine’s establishment in 1964,' James explained.
Walcon Marine now has a strong link with the Boating Industry Association of NSW, and many members will attest to the tremendous improvement to the marina at the Sydney International Boat Show since the UK company became involved.
James in fact was at the 2011 Sydney International Boat Show to join with BIA president Darren Vaux and sign an extended contract; the occasion also marked the 10th anniversary of the company’s SIBS involvement.
Darren Vaux and James Walters
Although Robin Walters is no longer engaged in day-to-day business with the company he founded, James says he remains 'absolutely passionate' when it comes to the business, marina developments and pontoon designs.
'He deserves to sit back a little and enjoy the fruits of his hard work,' James says.
James, wife Penny and children Emily, 13, and Nicholas, 11, reside on England’s south coast, between Southampton and Portsmouth.
Walcon Marine, UK employs 45 staff at its headquarters and six full time staff, two consultants and two part timers in its Australian operations.
James says the company is currently engaged on eight sites worldwide, the largest of which is right here in Australia, Western Australia, to be precise, where the company is building the Port Catherine Marina at Coogee for Australand.
Naturally, Walcon Marine sub contracts much of its work, including float manufacture, fabrication, decking, piling/mooring and site installation.
James Walters joined Walcon Marine in 1993. He was previously working with a civil engineering contractor involved with the building of bridges quay walls and sewage works.
On reflection, he feels it would have been beneficial to have stayed with that company, Dean and Dyball Construction, but when an opportunity arose in 1993 to link with Walcon Marine, he decided, with Robin, 'to go for it.'
'As it turned out, it has proven to be the correct decision, although I have had to work a lot harder and my learning curve has been very steep,' he declared.
Looking at the company’s achievements since James came on board, he has definitely approached that ‘learning curve’ in an enthusiastic manner.
'When I arrived at the company we sub-contracted all our piling works to others; I was fortunate enough to start at Walcon with guys that had been engaged on marine piling and had ample experience,' he explained.
'Over the years, Walcon Marine built up a reputation for providing the complete package using old piling plant.
'Nine years ago my team and I designed our ideal piling barge which we then had built to our specifications; it cost a lot of money with no real certainty of projects, but it has transformed our capabilities.
'Without doubt it has been one of the best decisions made at Walcon for it has increased our ability to win projects, win different and difficult projects and generally provide a quality service,' he added.
Walcon Marine GC office
Walcon Marine can claim to be a worldwide company these days, with projects across Europe, the Middle East and of course, Australia.
'We seem to be particularly strong in Holland and Belgium where we are represented by a company called Infra Trading,' James explained.
'All our pontoon equipment manufactured in the UK is purchased by Infra Trading.
'We have also been engaged in projects in the Middle East for many years, where we have local sub-contractors who manufacture the floats, fabrications and decking; we generally project-manage these projects from the UK', he said.
Boat shows, of course, remain a primary focus for the company; in addition to the Sydney International Boat Show, Walcon Marine provides the 350-berth temporary marina for the Southampton International Boat Show, the Seawork Boat Show (also in Southampton), the London Boat Show, the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show and the Dubai Boat Show.
Taking a glance across the board (should that be across the world) at Walcon Marine’s many and varied projects, it seems a fairly safe bet that James Walters will have to accept that he is indeed a ‘travellin’ man’, for now and the immediate future.
He is due into Sydney, then Queensland and then Wester Australia before the end of this month.
If he’s really lucky, he might get to celebrate Christmas at home.
Unless of course, Santa Claus is in need of a marina at the North Pole.