4 May 2023






3 mins

One of the well known Hydrofoil Builder based at Messina, Sicily (Italy) is no doubt – Rodriquez Cantieri Navali (RCN)

The history of RCN  has far-off origins, and one has to go back to 1887 to date the beginning of this long and variegated entrepreneurial event. In fact, that year Leopoldo Rodriquez set up a little naval repair workshop in the port of Messina.

The hydrofoil idea came out one day when skimming through the Domenica del Corriere, the picture of a winged-boat flying over the water caught Carlo Rodriquez’s eye. He wanted to know a little bit more about this concept.

Carlo Rodriquez was maturing a decisive step. He would have not sold the hydrofoil to any ship owner. Rather he was looking for partners with whom he could establish a shipping company. The company would have bought the hydrofoil and operated her on a service between Messina and Reggio Calabria on the Italian mainland and Messina and Milazzo and the Eolian Islands.

The PT 20 FRECCIA DEL SOLE owned by the Aliscafi Shipping Company, Messina started to operate the world’s first scheduled seagoing hydrofoil service in 1956 between Sicily and the Italian mainland.

At the beginning of the 1970s, Carlo Rodriquez decides to play all his cards on the study of an electronic seakeeping system. The Rodriquez Shipyard decides to apply to Hamilton Standard, a big American company specialising in the study and installation of electronic systems in various sectors like the aero-space sector, in which the company has already a considerable experience.

Re-designed surface-piercing “W” foils replaced the conventional Vee foils whilst hydraulically operated flaps, attached to the trailing edges of the bow and rear foils, are adjusted automatically by the electronic seakeeping system, for the damping of heave, pitch and roll motions in heavy seas.

The launching of the RHS 160 in 1976 surely marked a productive success by Rodriquez Shipyard. The hydrofoil, more than 30 metres long and with a capacity of over 200 passengers in its standard configuration, was fit to face sea conditions which were first believed to be prohibitive for a hydrofoil.

Starting with the shipyard in Messina, the shipyard operations of Rodriquez Cantieri Navali expanded over a period of time over Italy and a yard in Malta during early 80s.

The Company was based at Marsaxlokk were the hulls used to be built.

On top of the building there’s the sign – MALTA HYDROFOILS LTD.

The Company had a field office at Manoel Island Yacht Yard (MIYY) for the duration of the project.

After the hulls used to be built at Marsaxlokk they used to be towed towards MIYY  for completion.


Images by former Dockyard Personnel CHARLIE PORTELLI.

Rodriquez Cantieri Navali SpA was responsible for the operation of the yard at Malta.

4 x RHS 160F Hydrofoils were built.

Extract from the 500 Page – Jane’s High Speed Marine Craft and Air Cushion Vehicles 1987 Edition (Part of our Maritime Library).


Images by former Dockyard Personnel CHARLIE PORTELLI.

The RHS 160 F Hydrofoil as the timeline image is Hull 3 named as MARRAJO being built for the Spanish Company TRASMEDITERRANEA.

Special thanks to former Dockyard Personnel Norman Grech and Charlie Portelli for helping including images with MIYY Commercial Manager Andrew Wilson and Marketing Manager Godwin Darmanin for their help.



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