Main photo: Oscar Press with BIA CEO Andrew Scott

Apprentice boat builder Oscar Press of Sydney’s Northern Beaches is bound for Europe in 2024 to further his passion for sustainability in the industry after winning a Global Footprint Scholarship.

Oscar, 21, is in his fourth year and apprenticed with Rowell Marine situated in the heart of Pittwater. BIA members Rowell Marine have a deep connection with boating and Pittwater dating back more than 50 years.

Oscar said it was a dream to work at Rowell’s on Pittwater and to have had the opportunity to work on quality timber boats including the impressive Palm Beach line of motor cruisers.

For Oscar, the scholarship means he will be able to travel overseas in the middle of 2024 once he has completed his apprenticeship.

His goal is to be able to gain invaluable experience as an intern with a timber boat building business in in Scandinavia, France, Portugal, Spain or Italy.

BIA CEO Andrew Scott congratulated Oscar on securing the first ever Global Footprint Scholarship for a boatbuilder in Australia and said the association was working through its international connections to help him identify suitable European boat wooden boat builders.

Oscar Rowell, of Rowell Marine Shipwrights, said Oscar Press was one of five shipwright apprentices the business employed.

“He has been working for me for four years and has always been very enthusiastic and passionate about the trade and our industry”, Rowell said. “I see a bright future for Oscar in our company, he is always thinking of new innovative ideas to improve and modernise boat building.

“From the techniques, to the materials we use and all other aspects that surround it. The boating industry needs more people like Oscar to ensure the future of the boat building here in Australia continues to grow and move in the right direction.” 

Oscar Press, whose has leisure pursuits which include bushwalking and riding single-fin surfboards said moving overseas and working towards sustainability in boat building was a dream.

“As our planet faces environmental challenges, it is imperative to find innovative solutions that promote eco-friendly practices,” he said. “I truly believe this is something we need to start doing better especially in my line of work.

“This scholarship will allow me to grow personally while making a positive impact on the environment through sustainable practices learned abroad. Through this scholarship program, I am confident that I can achieve my goals in sustainability and strive to contribute significantly towards creating a greener future for our planet.

“At my workplace, I work with timber the majority of the time. I find myself truly lucky to be doing this work as not only is timber a renewable resource that can be sustainably harvested but the craftsmanship and attention to detail required in building timber boats are unparalleled. I am very passionate about my work.

“I love taking on a job that I did not think I could do at the start, and then, weeks later, look at it knowing I just made that. Working with timber boats is something so unique from its varieties of timber to the fine, detailed work we do. I am no pro just yet but seeing how much I am enjoying it in Australia, I have always thought to take my skills overseas, and when I heard about this scholarship, I could not believe it.

“Although my main work is timber there are times we will use other materials and, unfortunately, it is not the most sustainable trade. I like to take pride in myself for continually trying to implement ways to help make the job more eco-friendly.

“One big problem is recycling, many products we use are very tricky to recycle forcing them to get chucked away, and I found myself frustrated that there was not anything I could do to fix this. I ended up starting to search, and I found a product called ‘Elium’ from a French company called ‘Arkema’. Resin itself is impossible to recycle as you cannot separate it from the structural fibres, but ‘Arkema’s development of their thermoplastic resin ‘Elium’ can not only be used in the same way as conventional boatbuilding resins, but it can be fully recovered at the end and produced into fresh material.

“These companies do not realise this but not only are they helping the environment, but they are giving thoughts, ideas and most of all inspiration for others to go out there and find sustainable ways to integrate into our daily lives.”

The Australian-based Global Footprints Scholarship is a self-directed career development opportunity for young Australians in agriculture, trades and horticulture. Successful applicants receive a grant to travel overseas for industry experience, professional development workshops, networking opportunities and mentoring.

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