Underwater Optics: Slowly But Surely

pp 60-61

Click here to view PDF…

Based in one of the world’s toughest testing environments for marine equipment, JT Electric sees soaring overseas demand for its underwater applications, notably video recorders for trawl fishing, lights and cameras for fish farming.

If you’re in the business of developing marine equipment or related products and solutions, chances are you will find the weather and climate of the Faroe Islands to be a most welcoming feature — it will guarantee that what you have to offer is thoroughly tested for quality and therefore of the highest calibre as far as concerns operational reliability, robustness and durability. Anything less will simply not work in the Faroe Islands; once you’ve managed to make it work there, you’re likely to have a winning formula.

Just ask engineering firm JT Electric, makers of such products as Trawl Camera, Ocean Lite, and OceanCam. Based in Kambsdalur, Fuglafjørður, JT Electric are specialists in providing underwater solutions such as video camcorders for trawl fishing and artificial sunlight lamps as well as cameras and automatic feeding solutions for aquaculture. Lately the company has received an increasing stream of orders from overseas markets like Russia, Iceland, Norway, Scotland, Australia, and the Arab Gulf.

Starting from scratch and developing over four decades under the able leadership of electrical engineer Johannes Thomsen, founder of the enterprise, JT Electric has been able to turn the tough natural environment of the Faroe Islands into a competitive advantage in the international arena.

Said CEO Rói Kalsø: “Our underwater lights and cameras for aquaculture and camcorders for trawl fishing have been tried and tested for years and constantly improved. What we offer today is in the world’s absolute top league. These are heavy-duty products with a price tag that is far below what you would otherwise pay for the equivalent in durability and overall quality. One reason is we develop these items in an environment that is at the heart of the Faroese fishing and aquaculture clusters — the marine environment here can be extremely hostile with strong currents and high waves to a degree that is unheard of in other fish farming areas. So the industry here requires equipment that actually works and lasts, irrespective of such conditions.”

‘Not too quickly’

According to Mr. Kalsø, JT Electric has noted a growing influx of orders from abroad in the last couple of years. The success is largely, albeit not exclusively, attributed to the level of product quality achieved, as a new key ingredient has been added more recently — a redefined business strategy that has centered the company’s focus on a few key offerings.

“We are shipping to Tasmania, Dubai, Russia plus neighboring countries like Norway and Iceland and many more. Last time I counted we had 19 countries and the list is growing. We are finally being rewarded for the long and hard efforts that have been put into product development and quality. However also of importance is the fact that we have become more focused on core business so that more energy is put into solutions while we’re increasingly using standard technology in component parts. So we’ve boiled it down to three main departments: development, production, and maintenance.”

The composition of Fuglafjørður’s local industry remains a key factor in the process, Mr. Kalsø said.

“Fuglafjørður has a high concentration of businesses that work in closely related markets. Our collaboration with local companies is critical to our success as they form part of the feedback loop and some even carry our products as part of their offerings. As for our Trawl Camera, for example, fishing gear manufacturer Vónin is an active partner all through, from test runs and installation to marketing and sales to maintenance. In the case of Oceanlite and OceanCam, work extensively with mechanical engineering firm KJ Hydraulic, who are specialists in the aquaculture industry. We have local fish farms using our lights and cameras as well as feeding automation solutions. And the Port of Fuglafjørður is the mainstay of the pelagic industry and one of the busiest in the country, so many of the vessels that call here are users of the Trawl Camera. Plus there are other key facilities in the fishing harbor, all of which enables us to stay in close contact with clients and receive a steady stream of feedback relevant to our products.”

With a background in retail commerce and business accounting, the 40-year old Mr. Kalsø took the helm in January 2014.

Since then, JT Electric exports have increased to 13 percent of total sales and are expected to represent significant growth potential.

“We are looking to grow our exports substantially but not too quickly,” Mr. Kalsø said.