The Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology) visited National Research Council Institute for Ocean Technology (NRC-IOT) in St. John’s, Newfoundland yesterday. The purpose of his visit was to announce $135 million to support community-based technology partnerships across Canada, including $6.3 million for the institute. The federal government investment will apply to 11 communities across the country and will provide opportunities for businesses to conduct research in partnership with the National Research Council. Marport was invited to participate in the event as an example of a local company that has worked with NRC-IOT to develop new products and increase its competitiveness in the marketplace.
Marport’s SQX-500 Unmanned Underwater Vehicle was on display and was the subject of a great deal of interest from the audience, media and political representatives. “These investments allow us to commercially exploit our vast institutional knowledge base and transform it into new technologies, products and services” said Derrick Rowe, addressing the audience on hand for the announcement, “These types of investments are exactly the kind of vision and leadership this country and this region need.”
An article about Marport’s SQX Unmanned Underwater Vehicle program is now available on the NRC website at:
March 1, 2010
A small unmanned submarine with cutting-edge manoeuvring and sonar capabilities is set to dive into new commercial and defence markets.
St. John’s-based Marport Canada Inc., which builds sonars for commercial deepwater fishing, is releasing its SQX-500 submarine. The submarine was built with NRC help and is suited for use in defence, offshore energy and ocean science applications.
The story starts in 2005, when Marport CEO Karl Kenny conceived the idea of using software to define the function of a sonar device, rather than building a dedicated piece of equipment for each type of application.
“We thought, ‘Why don’t we build one platform that would cover a wide range of applications in our area?’” says Neil Riggs, Marport’s vice-president of research and development. “As we explored the idea, we realized there were other markets we could get into besides fishing.”
One sonar, many uses
Marport’s unique software-defined sonar uses pre-programmed computer modules that plug into a single piece of standard sensor hardware. Until now, each individual type of sonar has been designed as a separate piece of electronics hardware.
Thinking about uses for the device, Kenny reasoned that an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) — basically a robot submarine — could carry the sonar system into new markets.
The first thought was to build a vehicle to “fly” a side-scanning sonar above the ocean floor to map routes for subsea cables and pipelines. In order for the images to be usable, the AUV would have to be stable. Kenny suggested that if it could be made stable enough, and could also hover, it could take on further roles such as underwater inspections. In 2007, Marport decided to develop its own AUV.
“At that point I remembered that I knew people at the NRC Institute for Ocean Technology in St. John’s who were involved with this kind of work,” says Riggs.
A custom-built sub
NRC had an underwater vehicle development team. Marport had an innovative sonar technology. They joined forces to develop the SQX-500. NRC suggested using an inherently stable twin-hull design pioneered at the U.S.-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and, with Marport, developed a combined propulsion and steering gear to give the little sub unique capabilities.
“The basic idea came from NRC,” says Riggs. “It has really evolved, but NRC was an important partner at the beginning and is still very much part of the project. We have a nice little vehicle now, and Memorial University of Newfoundland has joined the development team.”
The vehicle is a twin-hulled submersible with two 1.6-metre long, 23-cm diameter hulls that hold sonar, batteries and navigation electronics. Joining the top and bottom hulls are a pair of rudders, each supporting a motor, thrusters and horizontal winglets that provide power and steering.
The “vector thrustering propulsion control system,” prototyped in NRC’s test tanks in St. John’s, and jointly patented by Marport and NRC, gives the machine high manoeuvrability and a helicopter-like ability to hover.
Going deeper and farther
The SQX-500 can dive to 500 metres, but Marport already plans a model for 3000 metres. In addition to civil uses, the company will work with General Dynamics Canada to develop the AUV for defence roles such as anti-mine countermeasures.
Plans for the future: a swarm of SQX vehicles operating under the ice. Graphic courtesy of General Dynamics Canada Ltd.
Riggs sees many essential but low-profile uses for an SQX-type of vehicle, such as mapping routes for underwater oil and gas pipelines or power cables, or inspecting underwater parts of offshore drilling platforms.
Riggs says that in the future, AUVs will work in swarms — each independent, but communicating with the others to cover various tasks in an overall mission. In the nearer term, he hopes that SQX-500 swarms will be used to map the Arctic seabed.
“If we have one great ambition,” he says, “it’s to have our vehicle used in the Arctic, under the ice.”
Global expenditure on Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) will total $2.3 billion over the next decade according to new market research released on December 16, 2009 by business analysts, Douglas-Westwood. The company’s latest report, The World AUV Market Report 2010-2019, also highlights that approximately half of AUV expenditure between 2010 and 2019 ($1.1 billion) will come from the military sector.
“While over 600 Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) have been produced to date, they are still regarded as a relatively new technology,” explains Paul Newman, lead Douglas-Westwood Analyst. “However, the use of AUVs has increased significantly in a number of key tasks where they have been shown to be more cost effective than previous technology. For example, they are now one of the military’s primary mine countermeasure devices and well established within the oil & gas community as deep water survey platforms.”
The report predicts that over 1,000 AUVs will be procured over the next decade. It also highlights key AUV market drivers amongst military, oil & gas and research sectors – the three principal AUV purchasers – concluding that supporting war on terror campaigns, searching for potential deep water oil & gas reserves and understanding the role of the oceans in climate change are the main reasons for the increased demand.
The World AUV Market Report 2010-2019 describes how AUVs fit into the family tree of unmanned underwater vehicles – outlining industry development and providing detailed examples of the various types of AUVs. It also segments AUV numbers by type and application, while providing insight into developers, manufacturers and operators.
Newman concludes: “In addition, a massive growth in demand has not just increased ship costs dramatically but also those of the essential underwater operations personnel. AUV technology is primed for dynamic growth as technological capability and market need are now building on each other.”
The U.S. House and Senate appropriators agreed to a $636.3 billion defense budget for 2010 on Dec. 15, defying the Obama administration by buying more C-17s, an alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter and by refusing to kill the presidential helicopter.
The sharpest jab at Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Barack Obama came in the form of a $2.5 billion add-on for buying 10 more C-17 cargo planes.
Gates wanted to end the program, contending that the Air Force has plenty of C-17s and other airlift planes.
But the C-17 is a popular jobs program in at least a dozen states, so the House voted to spend $1.2 billion to buy three more planes and the Senate voted to spend $2.5 billion for 10 more. The lawmakers decided to compromise by accepting the Senate’s plan.
Agreement on the alternate engine went more the House’s way. Again, Gates argued against spending any money on it, and the Senate sided with him. But the House voted to spend $560 million to keep developing the engine. The House gave in a little, the Senate gave in a lot and the compromise version of the spending bill now includes $465 million for the engine.
The alternate engine program is intended to develop an alternative to the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine. Lawmakers argue that if problems develop with the F135, they could ground much or all of the Joint Strike Fighter fleet, which will gradually comprise the bulk of the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fighter fleets. The alternate engine would provide another option. It is being developed by General Electric and Rolls Royce, and development alone is expected to cost about $5 billion. Gates argued that the alternate engine was a waste of money.
The decision to keep funding the presidential helicopter may be seen as a partial victory for Gates. The beleaguered helicopter program receives $130 million in the new appropriations bill. Of that, $100 million is for “technology capture” so that the $3.3 billion already spent on the VH-71 won’t be wasted. The House wanted to spend $485 million to “operationalize” five helicopters that are already mostly built. Gates pulled the plug on the program last spring after the cost for 23 helicopters increased from $6.5 billion to $13 billion.
Appropriations conferees also agreed to spend $15 billion on new ships – $120 million more than Gates requested. That would pay for seven ships: one DDH-51 destroyer, one attack submarine, two Littoral Combat Ships, one joint high-speed vessel and two T-AKE cargo ships.
In a report on their compromise bill, lawmakers complained that the shipbuilding plan for 2010 “once again falls short” if the 10 ships needed annually to increase the fleet to 313 ships.
Congress has until Dec. 18 before the Defense Department runs out of money, but that doesn’t mean the Defense Appropriations bill must pass by that date.
The military – and most of the rest of the U.S. government – has been operating under a “continuing resolution” since Oct. 1 because most appropriations bills did not pass in time for the start of the new budget year. Lawmakers may simply pass another continuing resolution and postpone a final vote on the Defense Authorization bill.
Marport C-Tech has successfully recertified its Quality Management System to ISO 9001:2008, the global benchmark for standards of excellence. The company was last certified to the ISO 9001:2000 in 2006. After completion of the three year validity period, Marport C-Tech recently underwent a stringent recertification audit.
ISO 9001:2008 is a comprehensive management system standard maintained by ISO, the International Organization for Standardization.
It is administered by accreditation and certification bodies. Although the standard originated in the manufacturing sector, it’s now in use across many industries.
Some of the requirements in ISO 9001:2008 include:
- A set of procedures that cover all key processes in the business
- Monitoring processes to ensure they are effective
- Keeping adequate records
- Checking output for defects, with appropriate and corrective action where necessary
- Regularly reviewing individual processes and the quality system itself for effectiveness
- Facilitating continual improvement
A company or organization that has been independently audited and certified to be in conformance with ISO 9001:2008 may publicly state that it is “ISO 9001 certified” or “ISO 9001 registered”.
The recertification to ISO 9001:2008 quality standards is a reiteration of the Marport C-Tech commitment to continual improvement, a vital link in our journey towards excellence. We will continue to review our procedures to ensure excellence across all aspects of operations.
China has now surpassed South Korea as the world’s largest shipbuilder. China has 34.7 percent of the world market. Since 2000, South Korea has had the largest share of the world shipbuilding market after taking the lead from Japan.
China has invested significant resources into expanding its merchant shipbuilding industry, as a way to improve its warship building capability. Three years ago, China produced about a quarter of the world’s merchant ships, while South Korea was in first place, producing about a third. It was then believed that China would take first place in the next 5-10 years.
The big thing holding China back in the warship building area was the shortage of skilled personnel. By encouraging merchant shipbuilding, the government creates experienced ship builders for the more complex task of building warships. In most cases, merchant ships are larger than warships, and much less complex. For example, a common type of merchant ship is the VLCC (Very Large Crude Carrier) of 300,000 deadweight tons (DWT). This is the largest size tanker than can use the Straits of Malacca to carry oil from the Persian Gulf to East Asia. These ships haul two million barrels (about 290,000 tons) of oil per trip. These ships are larger than the biggest American aircraft carriers (like the Nimitz class, that are 110,000 tons displacement, and nearly 1,100 feet long.)
The major difference between merchant vessels and warships is what equipment they have. Merchant ships are quite basic and plain. A 300,000 DWT VLCC is about the same size as a Nimitz class carrier, but costs much less to build ($130 million for the VLCC, versus over $4 billion for the carrier). Actually, it costs more to run a carrier for one year, than the VLCC costs to build. Part of that has to do with crew size, with the carrier having a hundred sailors for everyone needed to run the VLCC.
By building all those merchant vessels, China has acquired the ability to build the basic warship hull. Where it has big problems is in creating the complex electronics, mechanical systems and weapons needed to make a warship work. China is making progress there as well, but not nearly as much as it has in the ship building area.
China grabbed the lead in market share for commercial shipping partly because it became more difficult for South Korean builders to expand. There were more restrictions on land use in South Korea, in addition to higher labour costs. South Korean builders, seeing that they could not match the expansion of Chinese ship yards, expended more effort on building more complex, and expensive, ships. Japan was following a similar path when it lost the lead to South Korea a decade ago. China also gained more market share by offering generous loan terms to foreign buyers of Chinese ships, and cheap loans for their own shipbuilders.
Marport C-Tech is a major corporate sponsor of The Quilt of Belonging; a textile mosaic measuring 120 feet long by 10.5 feet tall. It embraces 263 beautifully crafted blocks each portraying the cultural legacies of all the First Peoples in Canada and of every nation in the world. The Quilt of Belonging was started in 1998 and is currently on a five-year Canadian tour that will see it on display at the Surrey Art Gallery, January 23 – April 4 as part of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The Company first became involved in 2005 when we worked with the Quilt of Belonging staff to design and build 5 large traveling cases, as well as, sponsorship of the “Labrador Inuit” block (see below)
Marport C-Tech continues to be a major corporate sponsor by providing storage and a facility for the maintenance of various sections of the Quilt as a result of the wear and tear from visiting various exposition sites.
This Canadian treasure is unique in the world and Marport is honoured to be associated with it. The quilt may also be viewed online at http://www.quiltofbelonging.ca/home.htm
The 2009 Canadian Defence, Security and Aerospace Exhibition will take place Sept. 9 to 11, at the Cunard Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. DEFSEC Atlantic has evolved to become Atlantic Canada’s largest industry exhibition, and the second largest in Canada.
Exhibitors include international and Canadian suppliers and manufacturers. Panel discussions will explore Canada’s roles in NATO and in the Arctic. Several feature speakers will discuss international trade and Arctic affairs, including ownership, shipping, sovereignty and aboriginal rights.
The show will feature product presentations and capability displays of Canada’s leading edge defence and security technologies to a wide audience that includes government agencies and departments with interests in security, public safety, risk mitigation, threat response and emergency planning.
Requests for meetings can be co-ordinated with Glenda Leyte. Glenda’s email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE Faroe Islands, one of northern Europe’s most productive fishing countries, may decide to adopt the Euro as its national currency.
The islands’ influential Independence Party has applied to the central bank of the European Union to replace the Danish krona, which it has used for more than a century, with the euro.
What gives the move extra credence is that it has come to an agreement on this thorny issue with the Republic party. A public referendum has to take place on the possible changing of currency before the Faroese parliament, Logtingid, makes the final decision, according to Faroese news source Kringvarp Foroya. However, the move is unlikely to lead to an application for full EU membership at this stage, but with neighbours Iceland possibly joining the EU some think it would make economic sense.
The semi-independent Faroe Islands – Denmark now only looks after defence and certain international affairs – is heavily dependent on fishing. It has a large fishing fleet and more than 80 fish processing factories, many of which are major exporters to the eurozone and also the UK.
In fact fisheries products, including farmed salmon, represent 95 per cent of total exports.
The country is also fiercely protective of its rich and highly productive fishing grounds. There are no EU style quotas as such – instead each vessel is allocated a certain number of fishing days and grounds can be closed off during key breeding periods or if stocks appear to be threatened.
Karl Kenny, President and CEO, of Marport Canada Inc., sat down with CBC morning show host, Cecil Haire on Monday morning (July 21, 2009) to discuss how Marport has just become a major player in the world of military sonar.
Monday’s interview can be heard by clicking here (mp3 format, runs 5:27 minutes).