Interview with Patrick Lindley, director of Almarin
Interview published in Diario del Puerto: Almarin has become one of the leading companies in the design and manufacture of elements for navigation aids. Its director, Patrick Lindley, analyzes in this interview the development that not only his company has had, but also the sector in which he works and the future prospects.
Almarin is focused on the manufacture and commercialization of industrial and port equipment, but what are the company's main business lines today?
Together with two other companies, Ahlers Lindley, manufacturer of marine equipment, and Almovi, specialized in cranes and other industrial equipment, we form the Lindley Group, created more than 80 years ago in Lisbon. Initially, our activity was based on the importation and distribution of equipment, but for about 15 years we have been moving towards the manufacture of our own products. With the arrival of the crisis and the collapse of the markets, mainly the Spanish and Portuguese, our efforts have been oriented to the international market. As a result of our export activity, the line of navigation aids is today Almarin's main activity, although we do not doubt that, with the recovery of the recreational nautical market, the distribution of dry dock and industrial equipment will once again have a relevant role in our activity.
In which countries does Almarin operate?
The national market is the basis of our business, where we have a significant market share. However, about three years ago we decided to export our products with the conviction that they are very competitive. In this initial phase that we are still in, we have focused on Latin America and, seeing the excellent results obtained, we are expanding our goals.
Which services do you offer to your customers?
At Almarin we are able to provide our clients with a service that is tailored to the needs of their project: sometimes we only supply one product and the key is the delivery time - we have a large number of products in stock; other times a global service must be provided, from the definition of the necessary equipment to the turnkey delivery.
We also try to differentiate ourselves with alternative solutions. For example, we have an old lantern management service for the Port Authorities of Spain free of charge.
¿What makes you differentiate from your competitors?
In addition to the products, of course, our technical and commercial team stands out, listening and advising the client. We try to meet the needs of our clients incorporating the experience acquired in our 80 years of activity. If we want to remain active for another eighty, our perspective has to be long-term, of constant improvement, and this has to be reflected in our products. Each product is designed to exceed its useful life and comply not only with national standards but also with IALA recommendations, the international body that regulates aids to navigation. On the other hand, in the field of distribution we work with the most competent firms in the market to provide the best solution to our client's needs.
Innovation is esential in marine aids to navigation business. How does Almarin innovate?
At the level of the products we manufacture, we constantly face new challenges: for example, our range of large buoys, which were originally intended for ports, are now being demanded in waterways; or our stainless steel towers, which are being requested for remote areas, have to be redesigned and manufactured in segments to limit weight. One of the biggest challenges in our industry is keeping color within the parameters set by IALA. Therefore, we are always in constant search of new materials and paints to improve their resistance and durability.
The difference between the ancient Roman lighthouses and the current maritime signaling and beaconing systems is very great. How is navigation safety guaranteed today when a ship is approaching land and what systems are necessary?
If we think of lighthouses as night guides, the biggest challenge today compared to ancient times is dealing with light pollution. More and more the headlights are swallowed up by the incessant coastal urbanization and their visibility decreases. On the other hand, if we consider lighthouses as coastal navigation guides, their use has decreased due to the advancement of electronic aids on board, since any vessel that navigates outside the local area is equipped with GPS, ECDIS, etc. systems. However, the role of lighthouses and physical approach to port marking remain crucial to ensure maritime safety: even if the latest technology is available on board, real off-screen references are needed.
How evolved the regulation on marine aids to navigation in the last years?
Evolution is constant due to the introduction of new technologies. Probably the most recent and most relevant is the use of AIS. This was devised as an air navigation anti-collision system that was later adopted by maritime navigation. But more and more attempts are being made to transmit information from navigation aids using this system, although with highly variable results.
How do you imagine the marine aids to navigation in the future?
We will always have physical aids: beacons, buoys and lighthouses will continue to be necessary. What will probably happen is that they are getting smarter and the transmission of data to the user is more complete, reliable and efficient. Today, we regularly use satellite monitoring to receive information on the status of buoys and beacons. Its price is becoming more and more affordable, so I believe that it will not be long until ships receive all the relevant information in this way through a single, highly reliable land platform and not like now, from multiple dispersed sources.
In the world of electronic navigation, the training of technicians in the field is important. What kind of training do you have to follow?
Although we have modern systems, which are incredibly good and contribute productivity and efficiency to society, the fundamental thing is not to lose the good principles of seamanship; In other words, knowing how to get to a good port without any electronic help or depending on maritime rescue services.
In May, the XVIII conference of the International Association of Aids to Maritime Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) was held in A Coruña. Are these types of meetings useful?
The main objective of this event is to standardize navigation aids around the world so that they work better and with greater homogeneity. These types of meetings are essential to share information between people scattered around the world with very different experiences and realities. For us, as manufacturers, IALA allows us to obtain the most up-to-date knowledge of the sector, and serves to share experiences and meet potential clients and companies with which to create synergies. I would like to point out that we are very proud that the new president of IALA for the next four years is Juan Francisco Rebollo, from Puertos del Estado.
How does Almarin assess this conference? What results have they obtained?
This event is the world benchmark in the field of maritime signals and we believe that, after these last years working to internationalize our brand, the IALA conference has been a very important advance to position ourselves as one of the main manufacturers of buoys and beacons worldwide.