After 20 years in the marine industry, with one of those spent fishing and tinkering, Brad Marsden’s innovative Gold Coast company is starting to make waves in global markets.
Since participating at METSTRADE in Amsterdam late last year, the Miami-based Marine Air Flow International has seen export deals start to trickle in. However, Mr Marsden is now focusing on the ocean of opportunity that lies ahead.
Marine Air Flow manufactures a range of specialised marine equipment, primarily designed to improve ventilation of on-board engine rooms, to reduce maintenance costs and to enhance the personal safety of crews.
The company’s innovative products have found applications in military, fishing and rig tender vessels as well as superyachts and ferries in regions as far afield as the UK and Middle East.
They are a standard inclusion in all boats larger than 43 feet manufactured by Gold Coast luxury boat builder Riviera, and it’s at this production stage that Marine Air Flow sees most of its growth potential.
Although Marine Air Flow has already started exporting to Europe, where quality components are highly sought-after, Mr Marsden says distance remains a challenge. That prompted a direct marketing approach in Amsterdam last year that is now paying dividends.
“As our equipment is manufactured to such a high standard we made the decision that the European market was probably the best place to start with regard to exports,” he says.
“European manufacturers are themselves focused on a high-quality outcome. What became apparent however was that to establish a relationship with these companies we needed to offer them an opportunity to see our equipment first hand.
“We were confident that if we could make that happen we would stand a better chance of moving forward with them as partners.”
Mr Marsden says the opportunity to join the City of Gold Coast on its inaugural mission to METSTRADE was a cost-effective start. METSTRADE is an annual event that highlights the latest equipment available for the marine industry globally.
“Our goal for METS was to come away with 10 to 15 good quality contacts. We achieved that every day and left with 40 to 50 quality enquiries that ranged from a few production manufacturers and designers to a few end users.”
Marine Air Flow has generated about $70,000 in sales from the METSTRADE show alone.
“One of these contacts is a production manufacturer based in Indonesia,” Mr Marsden says.
“We are in the process of doing some quotes for further projects from this company with the goal of our equipment being included in their standard production list in the near future.”
Marine Air Flow set up operations on the Gold Coast in 2006, relocating from Cairns where the idea for the business germinated.
Mr Marsden, a former boatbuilder, started the company with his wife Jenny after a decade operating an engineering business providing refit and maintenance services for the Cairns tourism and fishing fleet.
“During the 10 years of running a business in Cairns it became abundantly clear that there just weren’t really any products on the market in Australia that addressed the challenges of salt induction into the engine room of commercial vessels,” says Mr Marsden.
After investigating existing solutions, he decided to start from scratch to develop a new engine room ventilation system that could be applied on a commercial scale.
In 2004, while living in Cairns, he took a year off after selling his marine services business. He spent some of that time fishing and the rest of it developing the system that was to kickstart Marine Air Flow International.
The company’s technology reduces moisture in the engine room, which Mr Marsden describes as the ‘silent killer’ in a marine environment that can lead to costly repair bills for boat owners.
“While we started primarily marketing to the end user, this quickly evolved into a broader market and today our orders come from boat builders, refit contractors, production manufacturers and still the end user,” he says.
“However, our main focus is designers and naval architects. We quickly discovered that to have our equipment included as part of the initial vessel design lessened the cost to our clients with regard to fitting the equipment, and it increased our exposure across the board.”
Marine Air Flow currently generates 20 per cent of its sales from exports, although the company’s new offshore marketing push is expected to lift that figure.
“Our goal now is to encourage some offshore manufacturers to include our equipment in their designs,” Mr Marden says.
“We are targeting relationships with offshore production companies with the goal of having three more production boat manufacturers on board in the next two years.”
Mr Marden credits the company’s success at METSTRADE last year with the support it received from the City of Gold Coast.
“Our simulator was a key factor in our success at METS and was integral to achieving a great level of client interaction,” he says.
“There is no way we could have had the success we did from METS without the City of Gold Coast’s support.”
For more information about growing export from the Gold Coast visit businessgoldcoast.com