Golden Words from our President
Even in a craft as old as shipbuilding, the heritage of India’s Sulkha Shipyard is remarkable, reaching back some 500 years through a single family dynasty. Sulkha builds cargo and supply vessels, trawlers, patrol boats, tugs and yachts in steel, glass fibre and wood. And for T. Abdul Hakeem, President and the ninth generation of this remarkable family legacy, boat building is an endless passion.
At the Sulkha Shipyard on the banks of the Valapattanam RIVER in South India, we measure not only in mere feet or metres but in centuries.
Company President, and marine designer T Abdul Hakeem, is a member of the Talangara family, prominent in the ship building business for the past 500 years. “Initially my ancestors were traders who built boats for their own use, who later took up boat building as their business. I am continuing this trade, and I’m proud to be ninth generation of my family legacy.” We build cargo and supply vessels, trawlers, patrol boats, tugs and yachts in steel, glass fibre and wood under a 20,000sq ft covered area and with an emphasis on quality and winning brand loyalty.
“At any one time we are able to have three large vessels under construction, or a single vessel with a carrying capacity of 10,000t. Facilities such as the deep and broad channels right in front of the yard in the cool calm backwaters away from the sea help us to construct and launch vessels without any hassle.”. Within the marine field our operation extends across automation, plumbing, fire fighting, main engine and generator installations and repair, air conditioning and electronics. Sulkha is also the Indian representative of some of the world’s leading manufacturers
Pioneer and Innovator
At every point in the Sulkha story, the legacy and achievements of the Talangara family casts a great beam from the masthead. “The guidance I received from my father, Talangara Abdulla Kunhi, was a great experience in my boatbuilding life. Boat building is a passion for me as it was for my father, and we have always considered the monetary benefit as secondary even though it earns our bread.“My long time association with my father later on helped me to design a plank edge cutting machine. In the beginning my father said I was wasting my time, but after a lot of trial and error we succeeded. Then my father said "you did it!", and that was one OF the greatest days in my life. “My father was very much a pioneer, introducing numerous techniques into wooden boat building such as the preparation in 1954 of proper drawings for better performance and stability, and also half models for accuracy. He also designed different kinds of clamp, which achieved better workmanship and helped to build boats that were almost leak proof.”
Mr Hakeem is a graduate of the Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology in Maine, USA, which for the past 85 years has trained more practicing boat designers than any other institution in the world. To implement his own ideas he went solo, and the result was the establishment of Sulkha Shipyard in 1990. I AM A SNAME A PROUD MEMBER OF SOCIETY OF NAVAL ARCHITECTS AND MARINE ENGINEERS USA.IN THE FIRST DHOHA INTERNATIONAL BOAT SHOW -TRADITIONAL BOAT - WE CAME IN THE FIRST POSITION. WE WERE HONOURED BY HH THE RULER OF QATAR. AND HIS HIGHNESS ANNOUNCED OUR BOAT AS "THE BEST BOAT TO EVER COME TO QATAR " “I strongly believe in quality. The perfectionist within me is never ready to compromise in the quality of materials and workmanship which established my reputation and helped the market to consider me as a good boat builder.” The shipyard’s first assignment was a cargo vessel with a 700t carrying capacity, “the largest wooden boat built in this part of the world.“Immediately after that we got another challenge when we were asked to build a fruit carrier specifically for the transportation of mangoes from India to Dubai. A temperature controlled hull had to be created to enable the vessel to reach Khorfakkan on the Gulf of Oman in the United Arab Emirates in a stipulated time limit of 105 hours.“This was a great test since the vessel had to reach its destination well in advance before the cargoes perished. After that we got an order from the Finnes shipping company in the Maldives who wanted a vessel to carry reefer cargo inside a wooden boat.
“That too we completed successfully, building a refrigeration system in the hold below the main deck. The cargo boat that we are working on at present is also the largest wooden boat ever to be built.”As an accomplished and respectful user of wood, Mr Hakeem has been saddened by the large amount of timber consumed in traditional boat building. “It made me think of finding a solution to reduce the usage of large quantity of timber.“I happened to hear about the construction of boats using epoxy with which vessels can be made with minimum quantities of wood - fast grown plantation timber, the harvesting of which doesn’t harm nature. That took me to a different kind of boat building method; the laminated cold moulded glue boat.“We mainly look for the Indian and Middle East markets for these types of boats. And with India having a vast coastline, some of it yet to be explored, we see a bright future in the Indian market. As prosperity increases the boat owning market will expand.“Clients from the Middle East came up with the idea of building wooden luxury boats and we welcome them, and always entertain new challenges. Now even in luxury wooden boats we are proud to be the market leader.
“We are ready to go for any kind of tie up with any UK or European boat builders as well as equipment manufacturers and suppliers. Most of the equipment supplied to us is of the highest international standards, coming from Britain or Europe.”In a country where skilled workers are at a premium and the skilled drawn to the Middle East and its high wages, Sulkha’s workforce of 100 is much esteemed by its dynastic CEO and owner. “Our people are very loyal, sincere and hard working. Some have been working with us for generations. They are our strength, and we always consider them as part of our family.” Half a decade is a moment’s pause in a business that began more than 250 years before the founding of the United States of America, but by 2020 Sulkha will have created a new $1m fully fledged facility extending across five acres. “Another plan is to build a ship docking yard in the public sector to provide a repair and service facility for the community. At present there is no such provision available in the Indian sub-continent. The cost of this project will be around $30m, and the Indian Government has agreed to allot sufficient land.”