James Walters, managing director of Walcon Marine, has recently completed 25 years at the company. The occasion was marked at the company’s main site at Segensworth, Hampshire, with the presentation of a ship’s bell and celebratory champagne. During this time Walcon has grown to become the UK’s leading builder and installer of the pontoons and walkways that form such an important part of the infrastructure that underpins the UK’s leisure marine sector.
The early 90s was a difficult period for businesses everywhere as the country recovered from recession and Walcon had been through its own period of belt tightening. However contracts were being won and initial projects that James worked on as a project manager included Sovereign Harbour at Eastbourne, and the installation of a floating breakwater at the Town Quay in Southampton.The son of Robin Walters, who founded the company over 50 years ago as Walters Construction, James was always destined for a career at the family firm and indeed while still at school worked in the factory during his summer holidays building pontoons and then installing them for the Southampton Boat Show. After gaining his engineering degree he spent three years with construction firm Dean & Dyball, where he gained valuable experience in the in the construction industry both on-site and in the office, before joining Walcon.
“Not long after that we made the decision to start doing our own piling so as to offer the complete package to our clients,” James recalls. “We started out using an existing barge that we had, but the demand for the service led us to purchasing our first piling barge, the Walcon Wizard, which is still going strong today. This took us on from being simply a manufacturer of pontoons to an integrated marine civil engineering company.” Today the company owns three barges that it uses for piling as well as for transport and secure storage. They also allow it to take materials to sites for which access via land is restricted.
In his 25 years, James has seen big changes in the marina sector. “Marinas and their clients have become more demanding,” he says, “driven in part by higher expectations and new technologies, and also due to higher standards of health and safety. At the production level we have achieved significant advances in productivity through investment in new machinery and the use of computer-aided design. The result of these combined forces is that we now customise our products much more so as to meet the needs of individual customers.”
“I’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to play a role in the business that my father founded back in 1963,” James says. “The marina and yacht harbour sector continues to be a great industry in which to work; full of people who are enthusiastic about what they do. The work is varied and has taken me all over the world. Over the years I have seen Walcon as a company develop an amazing bank of knowledge about sites all around the country and beyond, and we must be doing something right as many of our customers keep coming back for more. Our success so far has been based on experience, service and quality. Designing and building yacht harbours is what we do best!”