Baird Publications/Baird Maritime – Our Story

A Fascinating and Lengthy Voyage

Still young and foolish, my wife Rose and I followed our dream and founded Baird Publications early in 1978. It was to be the start of a long, fascinating and often exciting voyage. Before that year was out our first magazine, Professional Fisherman, was being published monthly to great acclaim from Australia's commercial fishing industry.

The fishing industry had been neglected for too long and had to contend with one, rather biased, government-published trade magazine – an unusual, curiously Australian arrangement. The industry was in desperate need of a publication to fight on its side against malignant bureaucrats and politicians.

While still very much a “mom and pop" operation, working with practically no capital, masses of effort, some judicious risk taking and benevolent suppliers, the business and magazine continued to grow. So inspired by the success of Professional Fisherman were we that we boldly went global with the launch of Work Boat World in March 1982. By then we had also “launched" two of our three sons, so we were very busy!

Fishy business

Fortuitously, although we didn't think so at the time, the editor of the Australian government fishing magazine published some untrue, deceptive and misleading comments about Professional Fisherman which he obviously regarded as a most unwelcome intruder on “his" patch. He refused to retract and apologise so we sued the government. It was an unbelievably successful action and the first by which the Australian Government had been sued under its own Trade Practices Act. In short, our win gave us some very valuable publicity and, eventually, led to the demise of a malicious, government supported competitor.

Probably somewhat over-confident following our big win, in 1983 we moved into the leisure boating or consumer market by launching Nautical News which later became Australian Yachting. It operated in a very competitive market in which a different form of commercial morality prevailed. In the commercial marine market we had become used to 95 per cent of customers being gentlemen. In the leisure market it was more like the reverse.

In 1993, to our great relief, we sold it. Meanwhile, foolishly, we had by purchasing Fishing News, entered the angling business. If anything, it was even worse than the leisure boating sector. We soon sold that publication having learnt our lesson about consumer magazines.

Endlessly searching for new adventures, in 1985 we launched the first of a long series of Seadays exhibitions and conferences. These were “on-water" events aimed at both commercial and leisure boat owners. They were a lot of work but proved to be useful cross-promotional exercises. Running out of steam in 1991, following the stock and property market crashes, we gave ourselves a three-year sabbatical from the events business and moved right out of the consumer market. A very wise decision as things turned out.

Going global

Quickly realising that Australasia represented about five per cent of the maritime world and learning fast from our Work Boat World venture, we determined that we needed to go truly global and to cover the full spectrum of the world maritime market. We had to cover commercial fishing globally, as well, obviously, as cargo shipping. Thus, in early 1989, we opened an office in England and in April launched Fishing Boat World. After seventeen fascinating years it was folded into Work Boat World as the commercial fishing industry contracted and the worlds of work and fishing boats became ever more similar.

Always looking for something new to do, in November 1988 we launched Australasian Ships and Ports which, via Asia Pacific Shipping, eventually morphed into Ships and Shipping, a truly global publication which was laid to rest late in 2007 as the Global Financial Crisis started to murder the international shipping industry.

While enjoying plenty of small adventures and excitements, we needed something to really get our teeth into so, in 1994, we revived our events division with the launch of Ausmarine '94 in Fremantle. Before we sold that division in 2013, we had held numerous exhibitions and conferences in Fremantle, Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Dalian, Sharjah, Bahrain and Venice. They were great fun and quite profitable and, most importantly, let us get to know our customers very well. However, they were a lot of work and, as Rose and I neared retiring age, we felt it better to let our successor focus on the heart of the business, magazines and new projects.

Realising that Britannia no longer ruled the waves and that, indeed, Britain hardly had a maritime industry at all, we closed our London office in 2003. We decided it was easier and more economical to operate from Melbourne using phone, email and jumbojet to reach our far-flung customers.

The next few years saw us reduce our magazine fleet to a more manageable two titles. Our old favourite Work Boat World was and is still going strong no matter what the vicissitudes of the world economy and Ausmarine has revived the fortunes of Professional Fisherman which it replaced following the sad and rapid decline of the Australian fishing industry.

What's next

Under our successor, our second son Alex, the business is in another growth phase. Alex, who is of the “digital generation" has launched our classified vessel advertising websites: initially workboatworld.com and soon to be followed by fishingboatworld.com. Their objective is to provide ship brokers, builders and owners with an economical, easy-to-use and truly global digital market place to facilitate the fast and economical sale and charter of vessels and their equipment.

Having grown up in the business since stuffing invoices in envelopes from the age of three, Alex has been imbued (some might say “indoctrinated") with its values. Our objectives are to provide solid and economical sales and marketing support for our advertiser customers and to fight tenaciously and strongly for our vessel owner readers whenever they are threatened by malignant governments and similar outside forces. We started with those objectives firmly in mind. They will remain there.

Neil Baird - Co-founder

Featured Story

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New vessel acquisitions boost Gibraltar’s maritime security

The small British territory of Gibraltar, situated on a narrow peninsula of Spain's southern Mediterranean coast, relies upon four forces for its maritime security. These are the Gibraltar Squadron of British Royal Navy (RN), and the marine units of the Gibraltar Defence Police (GDP), the Royal Gibraltar Police (RGP) and Her Majesty's Customs Gibraltar (HM Customs Gibraltar).

Core RN units are the 16-metre, 32-knot fast patrol boats Sabre (ex-Grey Wolf) and Scimitar (ex-Grey Fox). These 1980s-vintage, Halmatic-built craft were, until 2002, deployed on Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland, and manned by Royal Marines.

Both vessels are armed with two machine guns, fired from armoured stern mountings.

Patrol vessel Scimitar. Photo: Ministry of Defence

Earlier this year the RN confirmed that Sabre and Scimitar will be replaced in 2019 by a pair of newbuild, larger, faster and more heavily armed vessels. No further information has been released. There are, though, strong, but unconfirmed, rumours in the defence world that the replacement craft are to be supplied by fast boat specialists Safehaven Marine of Ireland.

There is also some speculation that the rumoured contract might be linked to a prospective order for a multi-role ship for the Irish Naval Service. (British yard Babcock Appledore is currently working on the sixth in a series of offshore patrol vessels for this service, while Safehaven, for its part, recently supplied the RN with a small catamaran survey vessel.)

Late last year the GDP took delivery of three new 40+ knot GRP interceptor craft.

The hulls of all these boats were built by Tampa Defence of the USA, with the craft being customised for a police role by South Boats of UK. Abraham Attias is an 11-metre, fully enclosed boat, powered by three 300 horsepower petrol outboard motors

The semi-open Charles Curtis has a length of 13.4 metres, and is powered by twin inboard diesels, linked to surface piercing propellers while the 12.2-metre, fully enclosed, Stephen Mckillop features twin inboard diesels, linked to waterjets.

These new boats are all fitted with radar, thermal imaging and low light TV cameras, as well as shock-absorbent seating.

Royal Gibraltar Police Patrol Vessel Sir William Jackson. Photo: Tonyevans gi

In 2013 the RGP commissioned the 25-metre, 28-knot, RHIB-equipped patrol vessel Sir William Jackson. Constructed by Technomont of Croatia, this vessel, prior to entering Gibraltar service, was a British fisheries patrol vessel. It was refitted in UK prior to delivery for its new police role.

2015 saw Sir William Jackson being joined in RGP service by another similar Technomont-constructed craft, namely the purpose-built Sir Adrian Johns.

HM Customs Gibraltar Boats

Also in 2015, the then newly formed marine unit of HM Customs Gibraltar took delivery from Italian builders Fabio Buzzi of two 60-knot, structured foam–constructed, 10.4-metre RIB fast pursuit and interception craft. The enclosed, offshore-capable, Searcher features a galley, toilet and air conditioning, and is powered by three 300 horsepower engines. The open-topped Seeker is powered by two such engines.

Both craft are fitted with radar, thermal imaging, and low light TV.

The Gibraltar maritime scene is a complex one, and the territory's increasingly well-equipped waterborne forces, which also include some older patrol craft and numerous RHIBS, can look forward to a busy future. Operational challenges include countering large scale smuggling, as well as territorial incursions by Spanish naval and paramilitary vessels, and conducting search and rescue operations. Also, the nascent threat that Gibraltar will, like Spain's North African enclaves, become embroiled in the massive unauthorised efflux of people from Africa, also looms increasingly large.

TREVOR HOLLINGSBEE



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