When you’re dealing with Steber you’re dealing with a company that is secure, that will deliver after being given a deposit, and that will still be in business in 20 years to support the product.
Steber boats powered by Cummins marine engines
Reviewed: December 2009
Author: Cummins Australia
"When you’re dealing with Steber you’re dealing with a company that is secure, that will deliver after being given a deposit, and that will still be in business in 20 years to support the product.”
Steber's staying power
After all, Steber the company has been boat building for 62 years, and its founder, Bruce Steber – Alan’s father – still lends a helping hand at the age of 80.
“We don’t currently have any warranty claims,” says Alan in his usual straightforward way. “And we own everything.”
Alan reckons there could be 10,000 Stebers “out there”, ranging from small runabouts (which the company focused on in its very early days) to recreational cruisers and commercial workboats.
The day I caught up with Alan, he and father Bruce were putting the finishing touches on a 4700 luxury flybridge cruiser powered by a pair of 715 hp Cummins MerCruiser Diesel QSM11 engines.
The boat was going to a customer in Mackay who had a 4300 Steber cruiser that originally had Detroit engines and was repowered with Cummins. Hence the QSM11s in the new 4700 which achieved 33 knots in sea trials.
Today, flybridge cruisers are among a wide range of recreational and commercial vessels built by Steber, mainly in the range of 6.7 m (22 ft) to 15.8 m (52 ft).
“We’ll basically do anything a customer wants, whether it’s a cruiser or a cray boat. It doesn’t matter to us. We’ll build to survey if the customer wants. We only build to order,” Alan explains.
Steber International currently has 38 staff, including seven shipwright apprentices, at its Taree facility on the NSW north coast where it has been based since 1974.
The company (originally Stebercraft) remains a truly family business. “What we do we enjoy,” says Alan, whose brother Graham is responsible for production and scheduling. As already mentioned, their father Bruce still keeps involved while mother Beryl is company secretary.
“One of the keys to our success is our stable staff,” Alan emphasises.
There’s obviously no place at Steber for people who don’t have the right attitude. Attitude and pride are the two things that make good people, and good people are the secret to the success of any business.
Steber expects the same high standards from its suppliers, one of which is Cummins which services the boatbuilder through its Newcastle branch. “Cummins is the best engine company to deal with in terms of support to our factory and our customers… no question about that,” says Alan.
For company founder Bruce Steber, now a fit 80, boating has been a life-long passion. “I love tinkering around the boats with the boys… I get a lot of satisfaction seeing where the company is today,” he says.
As a lad growing up in Sydney's northern beach suburbs, he often loitered at the local boatshed, rowing and running around in the hire boats.
At the age of 14, he took up an apprenticeship with a boat-builder at Dee Why and this led to him starting his own venture, building timber clinker runabouts in a humble lean-to off his house in Narrabeen.
Eventually he had seven people working for him, building one runabout every three days, and the business moved from Narrabeen to larger premises in Brookvale.
One day in 1958, Bruce remembers someone visiting his factory to introduce a newfangled material called fibreglass. Steber was to become one of the pioneers in fibreglass construction in Australia, switching from timber to the new material in 1959.
Today, Steber International is justifiably regarded as an Australian boatbuilding icon, and it seems the steady Steber hand will steer the company for a good number of years to come.