Picton mooring company makes NZ Innovation Awards finals
Picton marine engineer Mike Baker has been watching moorings fail and thrash the seabed for more than three decades, and decided to do something about it.
Baker's efforts with his crew at his Picton company N-Viro Mooring Systems have won them a finals spot in three categories at the 2017 New Zealand Innovation Awards.
Current mooring systems fail over time through corrosion and deterioration of the products they are constructed from. The lengths of heavy chain used in existing systems also do severe damage to the seabed.
Baker's Marine Flex is a completely new generation of mooring, using sustainable materials with an added feature - they are environmentally friendly as well.
They have also recently won the attention of several Australian environmental and government agencies looking for more robust and proven mooring systems in sensitive sea grass areas where existing moorings had failed during cyclone Debbie earlier this year.
Baker, with his wife and business partner Donna, showed the agencies how the elastic rode used in their mooring are configured to handle a range of vessel sizes, varying substrates and weather conditions.
"Our mooring systems are designed to withstand severe weather conditions with good resistance in both freshwater and saltwater environments and the have an unsurpassed ability to safely resist wave motion," Baker said.
"They don't affect sensitive seabeds and require very low regular maintenance. Marine Flex is already used on wave attenuators, marker buoys, floating pontoons, aquaculture farms, moorings and is designed for use in marinas as well."
The moorings are also significant space savers in highly contested mooring sites such as Picton and Waikawa, and also major ports such as Hong Kong. Bakers' units reduce swing circles by at least 50 per cent.
Unique engineering allows the Marine Flex unit to slowly elongate to 100 per cent of its length and then return to the original resting length in a smooth, calm moment with progressive resistance to both horizontal and vertical wave motion.
A pontoon anchored with Marine Flex is never passive to the sea, but offers firm resistance that substantially reduces movement.
The New Zealand-made innovation uses natural materials to eliminate the degradation of the sea floor caused by the destructive chain moorings. They are current world leaders for mooring systems.
Many samples of rubber had to trialled and tested for durability and strength through to destructive testing to determine the true capability of the rubber. This continues with each batch of rubber delivered to ensure the highest standard of quality control is maintained.
"This has never been done before," Baker said, "so all the machinery and automation now in place has had to be designed and built either in house or in collaboration with local industries."
Government agencies, on both sides of the Tasman, and iwi quickly bought into the concept. One prominent South Island iwi have mandated that environmentally friendly mooring systems be installed for all new and revalidated coastal permit resources consents, replacing the destructive chain mooring systems.
Once on the market, Marine Flex was well supported by domestic and international sales for new swing moorings, mooring up grades and floating jetties.
The flow on effect for the N-Viro group of companies includes the world-leading screw anchor system the Marine Flex mooring engages with. The support network for raw materials machining and assembling operations has increased the turnover and employment of staff for the Marine Flex company, which is part of the N-Viro group.
Donna Baker said the successful development, commercialisation and marketing of the mooring products was due to the combined efforts of the whole company team, with operations manager Richard McLean.
Strong interest has recently come from Norwegian fish farmers Aqualine, the largest in the world. They want 30,000 or more units for farms in 30 countries across the globe.
Marine Flex is a finalist in the Agribusiness and Environment, Sustainability, and Emerging Innovation sections of the NZ Innovation Awards to be decided on October 19.
- The Marlborough Express