Noakes is an icon of Sydney Harbour, and is planning a major improvement to its shipyard

Noakes is proposing a floating dry dock which will be a huge benefit to Sydney Harbour and a source of pride.

It will allow Noakes to:

  • continue to service boats that keep Sydney running: Water Police, Royal Australian Navy, and ferries
  • reduce its impact on the environment – minimising both noise and water pollution, and improving air quality (see below)
  • employ new specialist staff, keeping a niche industry alive
  • future-proof Sydney’s capability to service larger vessels, including superyachts.
VIDEO: Introducing Noakes and the floating dry dock

The proposal has been met with pushback from some members of the community who live in immediate proximity to the shipyard.

This website has been developed to help effectively engage with both the local and wider community and explain the development in more detail.

Rear Admiral Chris Oxenbould AO RAN (Rtd)

Former Royal Australian Navy Fleet Commander & Former CEO of NSW Maritime

“The Floating Dry Dock, with adjacent Noakes workshops, fills a vital niche capability that is currently poorly served.”

David Phillips

Svitzer Fleet Director – Technical, Fleet & Marine Standards

“There are insufficient facilities in Sydney… Svitzer supports the floating dry dock in Berry Bay.”

Ross Muir

General Manager, Sydney Heritage Fleet

“The floating dock is needed, both for Noakes’ ongoing commercial viability and for the historic and classic boat community.”

John Westacott

Retired Nine Executive. Yacht enthusiast

“I have been a journalist for 50 years… But I cannot recall a story when a small, noisy protest group was so manifestly transparent in its campaign against a worthy project.”

Almost as long as boats have sailed on Sydney Harbour, Berrys Bay has been synonymous with shipbuilding

Berrys Bay on Sydney’s North Shore has been a part of Port Jackson’s identity since 1866 – when William Langford started boat building in the bay.

Over the decades some of the most famous shipbuilding families of Sydney have built and maintained boats from their Berry Bay yards, including Watty Ford, Woodley’s, Lars Halvorsen Sons and the Stannard Brothers. Rosman Ferries operated from Berrys Bay, and since the early 1990s STS Young Endeavour has been maintained at Berrys Bay.

In the 1980s, the then-owners of the eastern side of Berrys Bay – the Stannard Brothers – redeveloped half of the shipyard precinct into residential housing, keeping the other half as a shipyard.

 
 

Berrys Bay

WM Ford Boatbuilders (c1880)

 
 

Berrys Bay

Woodley's Shipyard (1910)

 
 

Berrys Bay

Berrys Bay Boatyard (c1940)

 
 

Berrys Bay

Groom Bros Boat Builders (1956)

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Noakes arrives in Berrys Bay

Noakes has been producing rigging for Australian yachties since 1979, originally from its base at Kirribilli Marina.

In 1993, with Sean Langman at the helm, Noakes made the move to Berrys Bay and set about consolidating the site from its many tenants.

Noakes gradually enhanced its capacity and hired the best trades in the maritime industry to become the business it is today: a globally recognised and world-leading specialist shipyard.

Today, Noakes has an 80-tonne travelift, a 160-tonne slipway and four sealable boatbuilding sheds, one of which is also sound-proofed.

 
 
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Noakes holds itself to a higher standard than other Australian shipyards

From 2009, Noakes gained contracts to work on NSW Police launches, Department of Defence special vessels, and Royal Australian Navy landing craft.

During this transition to high-quality government work, Noakes went through stringent vetting processes to earn a ‘KDS’ status – this means ‘Key Divisional Supplier’ and it covers security, reliability, excellence and vetted personnel. It means Noakes is the only fully Australia-owned Prime Contractor to the Department of Defence, right here in Berrys Bay.

Noakes is also recognised by Lloyds, the top marine surveyor and insurer. Noakes is the only Lloyds-accredited square-rigger surveyor in the Southern Hemisphere, due to its industry-famous work on STS Young Endeavour.

Noakes is proposing a new floating dry dock - a critical piece of infrastructure that is missing from Sydney Harbour

Noakes has developed its reputation working on yachts and launches, and commercial craft such as ferries and tugs. Most of the heavy work has entailed lifting vessels from the water and placing them the hardstand.

Unfortunately, there are now many vessels that simply aren’t suited to a hardstand. Without an appropriate alternative to hardstands, the only option is to work on ships floating in the harbour – which shipyards avoid due to the environmental implications – or to tow the vessels out-of-state to be worked on in places such as Brisbane or Launceston.

That’s where the floating dry dock comes in – it’s a critical upgrade in infrastructure that is needed in Sydney Harbour to enable servicing and emergency repairs on larger boats, such as commercial and Defence vessels.

In 2013 Sean Langman bought the floating dry dock moored at Garden Island from the defence contractor, Thales. Since then, Noakes has spent more than $1 million to refit the dry dock into an industry-leading piece of infrastructure.

The floating dry dock will allow maritime services operators such as Svitzer, RMS, Defence and NSW Police to retain their maintenance and servicing inside Sydney Harbour.

The floating dry dock will also massively reduce the environmental impact of these operations.

 

Current view of the shipyard

 

Empty dock, moored against hard-stand

 

Sunk dock, angled for loading

 

Full dock, moored against hard-stand

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The floating dry dock brings cutting-edge technology and improvements to Noakes’ shipyard, setting a new environmental standard for Australia’s maritime industry

Noakes is an environmentally responsible shipyard with accreditation from the Defence Department, the RMS and the NSW Environmental Protection Authority.

With the addition of the floating dry dock, Noakes will fully transition the shipyard to the 21st century.

The floating dry dock will allow Noakes to better contain current activity and improve the environment for nearby residents.

Operating a floating dry dock allows the EPA to impose on Noakes a higher standard of environmental protections than they impose on standard shipyards. Not only will the proposed floating dry dock fully comply with these heightened standards – but it will exceed industry best-practice.

VIDEO: The benefits of the floating dry dock

VIDEO: The benefits of the floating dry dock

Water Pollutants

Noakes already uses two waste gutters on its slipway, which stops anti-foul, paint and solvents going into the harbour. But slipways can be prone to cracking and leaking - as happened in 2015, when Noakes was fined $15,000 by the EPA. Noakes did not contest the fine and instead committed to improving operations.

The floating dry dock, with the refurbishment, provides an answer to the run-off issue. The dry dock is a self-contained, sealed unit that holds all run-off and pollutants, meaning nothing will leak into the harbour. Moving forward, Noakes will contain all major vessel work to the floating dry dock, and only use the traditional slipway for work on heritage vessels.

Noise

Noakes has included cutting-edge sound dampening technology on the floating dry dock, limiting the overall sound output to beneath the current development consent levels. This technology is an innovation that has never before been utilised in Australia's maritime industry.

Without the floating dry dock, much of the current work on larger vessels is tide-dependent. The floating dry dock avoids this situation by allowing Noakes to load a vessel at any time.

Additionally, the floating dry dock is mobile. It means that Noakes can choose whether to bring work to the shipyard at Berrys Bay, or take vessels elsewhere to work on remotely.

Air

Existing environmental laws for boat and shipyards do not put forward any regulations around air quality. With the floating dry dock, Noakes is able to contain the air created from the dock’s activities and ensure it's processed through a water-scrubber and a carbon air filter, eliminating air pollutants.

These improvements are not limited to the work contained within the floating dry dock. Noakes will utilise the air-cleaning technology on the floating dry dock to filter much of the air generated from work performed on the Noakes hardstand.

Visual Footprint

By bringing the dock into its own water lease, Noakes is not actually increasing its footprint in Berrys Bay. The dry dock will operate fully within the existing working space, under already accepted guidelines.

The floating dry dock will support at-risk niche and skilled jobs

The inclusion of a floating dry dock at Berrys Bay is not only integral to the ‘working harbour’ ethos of the NSW Government’s Roads and Maritime Services (RMS), but it will allow Noakes to increase its vessel capacity – meaning more jobs and more upskilling of young people.

In the past 12 months, Noakes has employed eight apprentice shipwrights, among its workforce of 85. Noakes is currently approved to employ up to a maximum of 120 staff, and the inclusion of a floating dry dock would guarantee contracts and consistent work, enabling Noakes to fulfil it’s potential and employ more full-time staff. These are skilled positions in niche trades that Sydney’s maritime industry needs.

 
 
 
 
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In a dwindling industry, Noakes is ensuring that the ships we need and love can be cared-for in Sydney

The Noakes shipyard is one of only three shipyards left in Sydney Harbour.

It not only has a KDS designation from Defence, but it has globally-recognised expertise in maintaining and servicing heritage timber boats.

The Noakes yards at Berrys Bay have seen restoration work carried out on heritage craft such as Maluka, Morna and the Rosman ferry fleet.

With the inclusion of the proposed floating dry dock, Noakes will be able to facilitate emergency repairs on speciality vessels. This includes Police, Navy, ferry craft, the STS Young Endeavour, and also includes large superyachts and specialist private craft.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Introducing Sean Langman, owner of Noakes

Noakes and Berrys Bay are integral parts of Sydney Harbour, but so is Noakes’ owner, Sean Langman. Owning 38 boats, and having completed the Sydney-Hobart 26 times, he’s well and truly a part of Sydney Harbour’s DNA.

He was born on Sydney Harbour – in a yacht owned by his parents – and has restored many of the timber yachts that made the Sydney-Hobart such a famous race, including Sir Frank Packer’s yacht, Morna (built in Balmain) and Maluka, which was wrecked on a Bass Strait cruise in the 1930s. In 2013 Sean broke the record for the fastest Sydney-Auckland crossing in a trimaran.

He created a boatyard at Woolwich in Sydney in a joint venture with the Oatley family and he bought the four remaining timber Rosman ferries which are now berthed at Berrys Bay. Sean Langman is the proud owner of the ‘AUS 1’ sail number.

 
 
 
 
 
 
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Noakes Community FAQ

There is a DA application with North Sydney Council, what’s it about?

  • The jetties are at end-of-life, and two pylons have fallen over. It is a requirement they be replaced, but require a DA consent before that can be done.
  • Our DA is to remove the jetties and replace them with a floating dry dock.
  • Noakes is the long-term tenant of the land (now there more than 25 years). Noakes must comply with several regulations – one of them, mandated by RMS, is that the jetties and other infrastructure are safe and maintained properly.
  • Noakes also has the seabed lease. The floating dry dock with be moored within that.

Why is the FDD necessary?

  • Incline slipways which are frequently used for hauling vessels from the water have proven to be both environmentally and work safety inadequate. Ours is best practice but is not good practise.
  • Floating dry docks are used all over the world very successfully and are becoming more popular because they can radically reduce the environmental impact of shipyard works.

The floating dry dock is hugely beneficial to Sydney Harbour and will future-proof the maritime industry. It will allow Noakes to:

  • continue to service boats that keep Sydney running: Water Police, Navy, ferries, the heritage fleet, as well as recreational craft.
  • continue to employ specialist staff, keeping an important niche industry alive
  • future-proof Sydney’s capability to service larger vessels.

The floating dry dock will immensely improve the shipyard’s operations.

What else will change?

  • Noakes will continue to operate as it is currently, and all existing development consent rules stay in place.
  • Noakes will continue to operate under the rules of its existing DA and seabed lease.

Will the floating dry dock take up a larger area in the bay?

By bringing the dock into its own seabed lease, Noakes is not actually increasing its footprint in Berrys Bay. The dry dock will operate fully within the existing working space.

What impact will this have on water pollution? If Noakes has already had one environmental breach can’t it happen again?

Currently, Noakes works on boats on hardstands in the yard and on the slipway, which is the ramp where boats are moved to and from the water. Noakes uses two waste gutters on its slipway, which stops anti-foul, paint and solvents going into the harbour. But slipways can be prone to cracking and leaking – as happened in 2015, when Noakes was fined $15,000 by the EPA for an incident when four litres of anti-foul contaminated water leaked into the harbour. Noakes paid the fine and committed to improving operations.

The floating dry dock, with the refurbishment, provides an answer to the run-off issue. The dry dock is a self-contained, sealed unit that holds all run-off and pollutants, meaning nothing will leak into the harbour. The water and waste used in cleaning vessels is pumped ashore and treated. Once the waste is extracted the water quality is potable. Moving forward, Noakes will contain all major vessel work to the floating dry dock, and only use the traditional slipway for work on heritage vessels.

What impact will this have on air pollution?

With the floating dry dock, Noakes can contain the air created from the dock’s activities and ensure it’s processed through a water-scrubber and a carbon air filter, eliminating air pollutants (including volatile organic compounds – VOCs).

Noakes will also utilise the air-cleaning technology on the floating dry dock to filter much of the air generated from work performed on the Noakes hardstand. And this will be well above best practise. Noakes will be the only Shipyard in Sydney that thoroughly deals with VOCs.

Won’t the floating dry dock mean more noise?

No, the opposite. Noakes has included cutting-edge sound dampening technology on the floating dry dock. On an average construction site the ‘sonic curtains’ reduce the perceived noise by about 80%. This technology is an innovation that has never before been utilised in Australia’s maritime industry.

In addition, without the floating dry dock, much of the current work on larger vessels is tide-dependent. The floating dry dock avoids this situation by allowing Noakes to load a vessel at any time. This means where there was potential for night work, and the associated noise, there isn’t anymore.

Does the floating dry dock have to be in Berrys Bay? Is there an economically viable alternative location for the floating dry dock?

  • Noakes shipyard is the only viable alternative.
  • It’s moored in Snails Bay. But it’s not operational. Noakes can’t work on ships where it’s currently located.
  • To be operational it must reside in our shipyard where the land is appropriately zoned, is supported by the right land-based infrastructure and with a seabed license. Currently, the Noakes shipyard is the only location of this kind in Sydney Harbour where the dock will fit.
  • Previously it’s operated in Garden Island and Cockatoo Island, but Cockatoo Island is closed, without sufficient land-based infrastructure and no electricity. There is no room at Garden Island because we have a bigger Navy.

Is the floating dry dock critical? Some residents believe the floating dry dock is selfish – it puts financial gain for Noakes over the needs of the environment, community and residents.

  • The floating dry dock is critical in ensuring that the boats on Sydney Harbour are maintained in both an ongoing basis, and also for emergency repairs.
  • Noakes has already demonstrated their commitment to innovating around improved work practices and environmental standards that help minimise impact on the harbour and the floating dry dock is the next step in being able to provide a self-contained work area within the shipyard.
  • The Floating Dry Dock means there’s a significant improvement for the environment, because the structure is its own enclosed system meaning that waste water is processed onboard, boats are tented to prevent any fumes from painting and sound curtains baffle noise.

Will this just mean more disruption to residents of Berrys Bay?

  • Since Noakes took over exclusive operations of the shipyard it’s become far quieter, with far fewer vehicles in the street – there’s less noise and less congestion than there’s ever been.
  • Until recently private yacht owners used the yard for DIY repairs and often carloads of people would turn up – that’s not happening anymore.
  • Plus, the site doesn’t have a large charter boat fleet running out of Berrys Bay anymore.
  • The dry dock will actually absorb some of the work being done in the open now – so there will be even less noise, even less water and air pollution.

I’m upset about a shipyard operating in Berrys Bay.

  • Berrys Bay has been a working bay since 1850, and the apartments nearby are recent. They co-exist.
  • However, the people who live around Berrys Bay must understand that the bay is zoned to allow it to be part of the working harbour. That makes it quite different, for instance, from people who live in waterfront apartments in many other bays.
  • More people are owning and using boats in Sydney than ever before and the demand for maintenance of these vessels – let alone the demand from commercial operators and public service vessels like the ferries and water police boats – makes it necessary for Noakes to maintain and improve their operations.
  • The North Sydney Council reinforced the ‘working harbour’ ethos of Sydney Harbour, in around 1990, when they refused to rezone to fully residential the Berrys Bay property that Stannard Marine originally owned.
  • Instead, the zoning allowed for either 100 per cent industrial, or 50 per cent industrial and 50 per cent residential, which is what has happened. The Noakes shipyard is now the 50 per cent of the original lot that remained industrial, and the land to the south is the residential component and apartment buildings have been constructed since 1990.

Why is boatbuilding and training new staff important?

  • There is a growing demand for boatbuilding and shipwright skills, but ironically very few facilities can offer that in Sydney Harbour.
  • While it varies from month to month, we employ approximately 85 staff including 7 apprentices. We are permitted to employ 110.
  • Our shipyard and the boatbuilding skills our staff have are important because they are critical to keeping important vessels afloat. And it also includes people’s recreational boats, which make our harbour beautiful and one of the most envied in the world.

Noakes should only service small, recreational craft.

  • It’s not economically viable.
  • Noakes does service “white boats” (recreational yachts and craft). However, it is essential to be able to maintain the level of training required to service these vessels.
  • There is not enough income or consistency in recreational vessel work to keep staff employed and support that training. The only way is with the profits from ongoing government contracts, which provide consistent work that enable and guarantee employment of staff.
  • Noakes is passionate about keeping the harbour’s heritage alive and we love working on historic vessels. The commercial work makes it possible to keep doing the ‘love jobs’.

What does Noakes believe residents would prefer instead of a Shipyard?

  • The land, owned by Stannard Marine (and leased by Noakes), cannot be zoned residential. However, it can be zoned for parkland, and there are obvious benefits for residents who live locally – their property values would increase overnight.
  • Noakes believes that some residents are pushing very hard against Noakes for this reason.

If Noakes didn’t exist, where and how would these boats be maintained?

  • There is a critical shortage of shipyards in Sydney Harbour.
  • The reality is, if Noakes closes much of the maintenance work that occurs in Sydney Harbour will have to be sent to other harbours, Newcastle and out of state, at huge expense. This is bad for private vessel owners, but it’s absolutely devastating for integral Sydney Harbour operations that rely on well-maintained vessels.

Some residents have claimed that removing the jetties and pylons will shake up the floor of Berrys Bay, stirring up pollutants and tributyltin (TBT) that rests on the sea floor.

Pollutants, including Tributyltin (TBT) are all over the bottom of Sydney Harbour and have been for many years.

While we understand residents may be concerned about this, it’s important to know two things:

  1. The movement of any craft in any Sydney bay creates movement which ‘stirs up’ the bay’s floor. In fact, the movement of boats churns up more of the sea floor than removing a pylon will, because the process of removing a pylon is a precise, vertical exercise involving a crane.
  2. The pylons must be removed because they are at end-of-life, and dangerous. If they remain, they are not only in breach of regulations imposed by RMS, but may fall over. This is dangerous for workers and members of the public using the bay and may also damage craft. Additionally, when a pylon falls over it will disturb the sea floor and TBT. The pylon will then have to be removed regardless.

Between that DA and now, how have you been engaging with the community?

Noakes has set up a community engagement group, a mix of internal staff and contractors, to ensure that we are answering all questions.

We’d like to satisfy the EPA, the Council, and collaborate with the local community and other stakeholders to answer their questions, try to accommodate their concerns, and properly communicate why it’s so important that Noakes not only continues to operate, but improves the way in which it operates moving forward.

There are several steps in our community outreach program:

  • We have set up this website to inform the community on the proposed floating dry dock.
  • We will be organising community information events.
  • We have created a mailing list, which anyone can subscribe to and opt-in for updates further down this page.
  • We will be surveying the community a number of times to better understand their concerns, and ensure we can address them.
  • We will be directly liaising with local community members around Berrys Bay.
  • We’re working with government on all levels.
  • We’re working with the EPA to address its concerns.
  • We’re inviting residents down for organised visits, and barbeques we host on Fridays.
  • We’re also working with the North Sydney Council to address all of its concerns.

We are 100% committed to accommodating reasonable community concerns. We are very interested in learning more about how we can work together and we are running a series of meetings and discussions with local residents to better understand what issues we can realistically address.

Why should residents trust Noakes to ensure they remove the pylons, or operate a floating dry dock “by the book”?

  • Noakes is an environmentally responsible shipyard that holds itself to a higher standard than other Australian shipyards.
  • From 2009, Noakes gained contracts to work on NSW Police launches, Department of Defence special vessels, and Royal Australian Navy landing craft. During this transition to high-quality government work, Noakes went through stringent vetting processes to earn a ‘KDS’ (Key Divisional Supplier) status, which covers security, reliability, excellence and vetted personnel. It means Noakes is the only fully Australia-owned Prime Contractor to the Department of Defence.
  • Noakes has completely turned around the way the shipyard operates, compared to when multiple contractors operated on the site many years ago. It’s far safer than it was in the past, particularly given the strict regulations imposed over the years, which Noakes has welcomed, in order to transition into the industry-leading shipyard it is today.
  • Noakes is also recognised by Lloyds, the top marine surveyor and insurer. Noakes is the only Lloyds-accredited square-rigger surveyor in the Southern Hemisphere, due to its industry-famous work on STS Young Endeavour. Noakes is currently in the process of attaining the highest level of accreditation with Lloyds.
  • Noakes has spent several years working with numerous contractors to ‘tick every box’, and answer any and all questions asked of it by the EPA, as part of maintaining its seabed license, with the view to transition the shipyard on to a long-term 30-year license.

Is Sean Langman is in this for self interest?

  • Sean Langman, owner of Noakes, loves Sydney Harbour and Berrys Bay. Owning 38 boats, and having completed the Sydney-Hobart 28 times, he’s well and truly a part of Sydney Harbour’s DNA.
  • Under Langman’s tenure, Noakes staff clean up the Berrys Bay beach after storms, simply because they live and work in the area. They help people under duress on the harbour for free, as it’s simply part of the seafarer’s code. They report sewage spills and help clean them up. They do all of this at no cost. As Langman states, “it’s just how we operate.”
  • The floating dry dock will allow Noakes to better contain current activity and improve the environment for nearby residents. With the addition of the floating dry dock, Noakes will fully transition the shipyard to the 21st century.
  • Operating a floating dry dock allows the EPA to impose on Noakes a higher standard of environmental protections than they impose on standard shipyards. Not only will the proposed floating dry dock fully comply with these heightened standards – it will exceed industry best-practice.

Who will ultimately grant approval for the DA?

North Sydney Council will be in charge of approving the DA for the removal of the jetties. If the DA is denied, Noakes will take the matter to be decided in the Land and Environment Court.

When I moved into the Berrys Bay I wasn’t happy about a shipyard, but I grew used to it. Now I’m concerned this change will increase shipyard operations.

  • Noakes is much quieter and a better neighbour than it was many years ago. When eight charter companies operated here, it was noisier and dirtier. Many of the individuals that operated on the site didn’t adhere to the strict regulations or code that Noakes operates under today.
  • Noakes, under Sean Langman’s direction, has deliberately worked to clean up that mess by buying out each individual leaseholder on the site, and own the exclusive lease for the entire shipyard’s operations.
  • Today it’s better than it has ever been: shipyard operations are much cleaner and safer. Where previously there were tenants working until 2am and making noise unloading rubbish into bins, now the shipyard under Noakes has minimised noise, including on the weekend.

Access to the waterfront is something important to the local community. Can we have a walkway through Noakes?

While we understand that it would be wonderful for the local community to have more access to the water, the land on which Noakes leases is industrially zoned land and an active work site which would present safety issues for pedestrians. It’s not something Noakes can help with.

Can I see how the floating dry dock will look?

As the accurate images show below, the floating dry dock is a relatively small change visually when compared to the immense improvement it will have on the environment. The view for residents that surrounds the shipyard will remain unimpeded.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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You can slide left and right on the above image to scroll

Contact us

If you have questions, concerns, or would like further clarification on the proposed changes to the Noakes shipyard, please get in touch.

email: [email protected]

phone: +612 9060 2248

You may also subscribe to our mailing list if you’d like to receive important updates: