Bob Clifford

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Dr. Robert Clifford AO
OccupationChairman and founder of Incat
ChildrenCraig Clifford. Kim Clifford, Rohan Clifford

Dr. Robert "Bob" Frederick Clifford AO, (born in Tasmania, Australia), and now living in Surrey, England, is an Australian shipbuilder, entrepreneur, and businessman, best known for his success in building his Incat catamaran building company into an international brand that sells wave piercing catamaran ferries all over the world including to the US military and many European ferry operators.


In 1963, Bob Clifford was awarded the apprentice of the year award for printing. He began his boat building business in his backyard before expanding it to a commercial operation. Eventually he went into partnership with Philip Hercus, who helped him expand Incat into a serious shipbuilding operation.

In 1994, Clifford skippered his maxi yacht Tasmania to line honours victory in the 50th anniversary Sydney to Hobart yacht race. In 1994, Clifford experienced one of his blackest moments when he accidentally ran aground his 40 million dollar catamaran Condor II upon Blackjack Rock in the mouth of the Derwent River. He has won numerous design and manufacturing awards for his shipbuilding exploits.

Business exploits[edit]

He spent much of his early years as a fisherman and turned his passion for the sea into a backyard boat building operation. He was immediately successful, and promoted the idea of fast commuter ferries and turned his company into one of the world's leading manufacturers of high-speed catamaran ferries. The Tasman Bridge disaster result in high demand Clifford's ferry business.[1] Developing much of the technology locally, Incat researched and designed high-tech, high-speed wave piercing catamarans.

By September, 1977, Incat launched their first high-speed catamaran at Prince of Wales Bay, Tasmania. Since then they have expanded their operation into 98- and 112-metre wavepiercer production.

The catamarans have proved to be one of Australia's best industrial success stories of recent years, and during the dark days of the 1990s when Tasmania's economy was suffering badly, the product provided a ray of hope to the ailing state. Over twenty of the catamarans have been sold to European operators, and a higher number has been sold to the US military. At the height of their success, Incat held more than 40%of the world's high speed ferry manufacturing market. Although the market has slowed, Incat has moved into production of catamaran freight vessels, and they are developing the design for even longer, 150 metre ferries.

Clifford's catamarans have also broken the record for the Atlantic Ocean crossing and won many design awards. Clifford famously does not pursue intellectual rights to his designs or products, preferring instead to try staying ahead of his competitors through savvy technological advances.


Robert Clifford has never had any political associations. His Incat business operated for many years on marginal profits. Shipbuilding is a cyclic business with at times rapid increases in workforce numbers, and at times reductions in the workforce. The company was in receivership for 11 months in 2002-2003, but successfully traded out with the sale of vessels.


Bob Clifford has been awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1995,[2] and an honorary Engineering degree (DEng.) from the University of Tasmania. He was also named Tasmanian of the Year in 1988.


  1. ^ Mather, Anne (5 January 2015). "Tasman Bridge disaster turned to opportunity for Bob Clifford and his boats". The Mercury (Hobart). Retrieved 5 January 2015.
  2. ^ It's an Honour - Officer of the Order of Australia

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