IN 2003 PACIFIC PONTOON & PIER WERE AWARDED THE PATENT (2003262204) “IMPROVEMENT IN THE MANUFACTURE OF PONTOONS & PIERS”
Pacific Pontoon & Pier is a wholly Australian-owned company whose head office is based on the Gold Coast, Queensland. The Gold Coast has historically been the centre of the booming Australian boating industry, presenting a water-based lifestyle in a perfect location. Waterfront living has continued to be highly sought after and has driven the growth of the marine industry world-wide.
Pacific Pontoon & Pier has grown through innovation, research and development, to be arguably the largest marina builder in Australia in recent years, developing a product range that has revolutionised marina construction, supplying a low-maintenance, high density and aesthetically pleasing marina product. The proof of the success of the system is that three other marina manufacturers have copied parts of the design. Whether Pacific Pontoon & Pier’s client requires a residential pontoon or a world-class marina, they’re ensured that they’re receiving 1st class technology.
25 years ago the founder of Pacific Pontoon & Pier (PPP), Bill Bourke, could see the need to move away from the waler-thru-rod design that then dominated the marina construction industry in Australia. Bill set out to design a system, which he succeeded in patenting (patent number 2003262204), that used low-maintenance and high-durability construction materials and methodologies. The ambition was to develop a system that would deliver a design life of 30 years without major and expensive overhauls or regular thru-rod tightening. This system has been further developed over the past 25 years, with improvements and details that can only come with experience.
The Gold Coast office includes a well-equipped design department and all design work and layout detail is still overseen by Bill to this day, ensuring every client obtains the full benefit of the company’s 25 years of experience. The company has acquired its own fleet of piling rigs and an impressive list of plant and equipment. 25 years, 55 marinas, and over 9000 marina pens later, Pacific Pontoon & Pier are the quiet achievers of the Australian marina industry and have proven that there really is ‘a new way of building marinas’; marinas that are economical and are built to last.
Besides Australia, Pacific Pontoon & Pier also service the marina construction markets in South Korea, South East Asia and United Arab Emirates. If you know the sumptuous and exclusive Palazzo Versace hotel on Queensland’s Gold Coast, you will be familiar with its private 90-berth marina. It is, as the brochures will tell you, ‘state of the art’ and designed to be easy for the clientele of the hotel and residences to moor their yachts, luxury launches and multi-hulls easily and safely.
It is one of the latest examples of marina building from an expert who re-thought the whole concept. Twenty five years ago, Bill Bourke was, he readily admits, the sole employee of a company building residential pontoons and jetties at the back of houses in the canal systems along the Gold Coast. He started up with “just a nail bag and a labourer” but he ended up taking on the major US competition and beating them.
Pacific Pontoon and Pier is now probably the foremost and largest builder of marinas in Australia, having developed a product range that revolutionised marina construction, supplying a low-maintenance, high density and aesthetically pleasing marina product. Bill says he took a long hard look at how marinas were constructed at that time. The major suppliers “lacked a lot of research and development in their processes, so I sat down and re-engineered how I thought marinas should be built.” He examined the manufacturing processes and ended up designing a series of alloy extrusions and some different ways of connecting modules together, all of which he patented.
Previously, he explains, marina modules and pontoons tended to be linked using timber, “which is very high- maintenance.” Bill says he is aware of yacht clubs that would spend in the region of $100,000 per year on timber maintenance alone. “When I took the timber out of marinas I took the maintenance out too.”
By early this year, he had developed some 55 complete marinas and nearly 9,000 berths, most but not all in Australia some in New Zealand, New Caledonia and Fiji, some much further afield, such as a series of ferry terminals along the broad, straight Han River that runs through Korea’s capital Seoul. The latter project is a reminder that not all of Pacific Pontoon’s output is geared to the leisure market – Bill has done a lot of work along the Brisbane River, including refuelling facilities and jetties for the CityCat commuter ferries.
Bill’s design enabled him to make serious inroads into the industry. “I looked at criteria of about 20 things that I wanted to change within the industry. It took me about three years to actually come up with the final designs of how it all worked. This modular approach frees us up in the design of a marina.” Pacific Pontoon does everything in-house, including design, engineering, piling, manufacturing, construction and all the installation work. In the case of the Palazzo Versace, says Bill, the developers came to him essentially with a blank sheet of paper and asked him to design the facility for them.
The key is the versatility of Bill’s basic modular design, which he can manufacture locally anywhere in the world without the need to ship moulds – other types of design are very labour-intensive, he points out. His approach was more like a child’s building blocks, linking together to become a very strong structure. “It’s a concrete deck, so it’s heavy and stable, but it had to be easy to construct so I could take it to Asia and other parts of the world where you maybe don’t have such a high skill level among staff. What we manufacture can be done right and safely with the correct foreman. Our design works easily, whether it is at the Palazzo Versace or whether it is a marina for fishing trawlers. It’s the same construction and it just works, whether they are 60 tonne fishing vessels or world-class yachts.”