Cayman marine business gets a boost

With its seafaring heritage, Cayman already has secured a spot as a hub of marine-related business. This seems likely to continue based on recent comments from Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush regarding construction of a new port in the Eastern Districts and development of the North Sound as a luxury yacht base.

marine boost

Philip Gordon checks radar equipment in George Town harbour. Photo: Submitted

The timing couldn’t be better for WI Marine Electronics Ltd a Cayman Islands company, which has just received approval from Lloyds register and the International Naval Survey Bureau for carrying out Global Maritime Distress and Safety System radio, voyage data recorder, and ship navigational surveys.

‘This is a massive step forward for our company gaining approval from Lloyds register and the International Naval Survey Bureau,’ said WI’s Philip Gordon.

The high-tech devices are designed to improve distress communications anywhere on the ocean, a vital element of marine safety even landlubbers can appreciate.

To abide by international regulations all equipment must be fully tested every 12 months and certified to be not only in full working order, but also meet the specific requirements for the area in which the vessel sails.

Now, WI Marine Electronics has been given the go-ahead to do the testing right here in Cayman. Among other things Mr. Gordon hopes to be able to expand the business to assist and support the needs of the cruise industry and their many vessels calling to Cayman.

A level of appreciation

Mr. Gordon, originally from a seafaring family from a small fishing village in Northern Ireland has been in the industry since leaving school.

‘My father after being one of the first in Europe to graduate with a combined radio and radar ticket joined the Merchant Navy as a radio officer,’ said Mr. Gordon.

‘So you could sort of say it’s in the blood!’

The younger Mr Gordon was a Royal National Lifeboat Institution crewman for 12 years rising up the ranks of the all-volunteer organization from Crew, Navigator, and Helmsman, to Senior Helmsman.

So not only does he appreciate the value of marine safety, he’s committed to the marine electronics field and believes it offers future opportunities for Cayman.

‘To own and operate marine communication equipment persons must be fully trained and hold a valid operator’s licence. The equipment only works if people know how to use it correctly and hold all relevant national and international qualifications,’ he said.

At present, those interested in the field must travel to Europe or the USA for accreditation and obtaining operators licenses.

Now the company has Lloyds register and International Naval Survey Bureau approval, Mr. Gordon hopes to set up GMDSS training courses in Cayman.

‘I am not aware of any Caribbean country offering GMDSS radio training at the moment,’ he said.

‘If we could offer the courses here and issue Cayman Islands radio tickets to international standard, I believe the courses would be in demand. The whole island economy would benefit from having people coming here to be trained.’

He noted that anyone going to sea at all whether it’s in a professional capacity or for leisure should be trained in these new technologies, as voice over radio will be eventually be phased out and all emergency communication will be handled with Digital Selective Calling Modems.

‘You need to know how to use the equipment for it to be of any use,’ he observed.

Further opportunities abound

Although survey and inspection of equipment is a large part of WI’s business, the company also sells, installs, and repairs all commercial marine electronic equipment and shore-based radio stations, as well as land and sea-based radar equipment throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, Brazil and Texas.

Some technologies, like the Raytheon radar and tracker surveillance systems are so advanced they can spot a swimmer’s head two miles away.

The company has also been contracted for services on offshore accommodation rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

‘Ninety-five per cent of our business comes from international vessels or other governments in the Caribbean,’ said Mr. Gordon.

‘So the way I see it, we are trying to bring money into the islands, not take it out,’ he said.

He is hopeful that Cayman will continue to develop its marine-related industries, saying it uniquely well-placed for expansion in some areas

‘I can see a lot of growth in the Marine electronic business in the Caribbean Area and we are best placed to serve our customers needs.’

What’s tested:

Four categories of surveys by qualified and licensed surveyors are carried out for international Registers and Governments:

GMDSS Radio: all radio and satellite communication systems required by law.

VDR: Voyage Data Recorders, the ‘black boxes’ on ships similar to the ones on aircraft.

SSAS: Ships Security Alert Systems Similar to silent alarms in banks, they consist of panic buttons hidden around a ship in case of piracy, sending silent messages including the ship’s position via satellite to other vessels, government and owners.

LRIT: Long Range Identity tracking allows the owners of a vessel and local port authority to see where the vessel is headed. They can watch the vessel anywhere worldwide to make sure it is on time, and track its speed or cargo contents.