A WORLD-leading hovercraft builder has won two orders for the new model it unveiled last December.

Griffon Hoverwork's 995ED was designed for search and rescue operations but has been snapped up by private customers as well as official bodies.

The Southampton company launched the model at the Exponaval maritime exhibition in Chile last December and the first production craft was supplied to the Malaysian government’s marine department.

However, the production line is now building another craft for a private client to use in icy conditions – while a tailor-made variant is in production after being commissioned as a tender for a superyacht.

Griffon Hoverwork’s sales and marketing director Nick MacLeod-Ash said the company was seeing increased interest worldwide for its models as countries prepare for the increased threat of flooding caused by global warming and rising sea levels.

“We are finding that more governments, NGOs, navies and coastguards worldwide are under pressure to plan disaster relief operations,” he said.

“Global warming and rising sea levels are a huge issue for many countries. Recent floods in Africa and South Asia affected 40million people following two months of persistent monsoon rains.

“Griffon’s hovercraft can help communities respond to the devastation caused by flooding by offering a unique solution to deliver resources in conditions where patrol boats and RIBs cannot.

“For example, the 995ED can perform over debris, weed, mud and ice in shallow rivers or tidal waters. In these cases, boats cannot navigate the conditions whilst helicopters are expensive to operate and have limited passenger capacity and payload. The 995ED however can travel over almost any surface.

“The 995ED, at 8m in length, is a nimble, quiet and stable hovercraft which can take up to eight people, has capacity for two stretchers and can carry a payload of just under one tonne.”

Mr MacLeod-Ash said demand for hovercraft has also been driven by the defence sector as naval and military customers look to protect coastal and in-land waterway communities from terrorists and drug gangs.

“Griffon’s hovercraft can help countries save and protect lives,” he said. “We have seen demand increasing for our larger 22m long 8000 and 8100 models. A number of these craft, which carry a payload of eight tonnes or up to 56 passengers, are making a real impact in-service around the world, notably in India, Kuwait, Pakistan, South Korea and Sweden.

“The BHT model is larger still at 33m long and can carry up to 180 people or a full payload of 21 tonnes and has a maximum speed at ‘all up weight’ of 45 knots. We are promoting these larger hovercraft which have the adaptability to operate in a wide variety of disaster relief and defensive roles. They further have the capacity to deliver greater volume of aid and vehicles.”