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BARB counterfeit hovercraft fears

Weston Mercury, United Kingdom
01 October 2010

Image HTI counterfeit rescue hovercraft endanger public BURNHAM'S new rescue hovercraft may be a 'counterfeit' - which experts have warned could endanger the public.

Italian company HTI International, which has already supplied two rescue craft to Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue, is in the frame to provide a new craft to Burnham Area Rescue Boat (BARB).

HTI has been in a legal dispute with US manufacturer Neoteric, who claims the Gorgonzola-based company has stolen patented designs and replicated them - an allegation HTI denies.
BARB has raised over 60,000 through donations to pay for the new hovercraft, which will replace the retiring Light of Elizabeth in spring next year.

BARB is deciding whether to purchase the International 425 craft after Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue purchased two of the same model in 2008.

[Indiana]-based Neoteric has several legal actions open against HTI over its 'unlawful business practices', and has warned the counterfeit craft may endanger the public.

In particular Neoteric is concerned about HTI's installation of 145 horse power engines in the hovercrafts, which are deemed to be too powerful for the size of the vessel.

HTI contributed two craft to the flood operations in Gloucestershire in 2008, but was later reprimanded for using then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown's official logo on its website to advertise
its products.

John Robertson, of Hoverclub UK, is one of several hovercraft owners who believe the Italian craft is unsuitable for the work carried out by BARB - and could even be dangerous.

He said: "As experienced hovercraft operators, we are very concerned by this situation. We have made several efforts to open discussions and to offer help or guidance to BARB but without
success.

"We are concerned with the suitability of these craft for rescue operations. This could end up putting people's lives at risk.

"None of the other UK rescue operators use this make of craft - there are good reasons for this."

BARB has declined to comment.
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