Marine Flex offers alternative to traditional chain moorings

From left Mike Baker, Tegan Baker, Donna and Rhys Welbourn, Port Marlborough chief executive, sponsors of the Marine Category.

Picton-based company Marine Flex is making a positive difference around New Zealand and beyond with their innovative and environmentally friendly mooring and anchoring systems, designed to reduce damage to the seabed under marine farms, boats and jetties.

Marine Flex recently won the Marine category at the 2023 Cawthron Marlborough Environment Awards for their breakthrough marine systems. For company co-founders Mike and Donna Baker, the award is welcome affirmation of their hard work.

“We’re delighted to have won this award,” says Donna. “Being able to showcase our product work is really important to us. It means the environmental side of it is getting out there more and more.”

“Our goal is to completely replace the damaging chain and metal components currently used in the mooring industry.”

Marine Flex elastic moorings are a real step change compared with traditional chain moorings that cause sweeping damage over time on the seafloor and marine habitats. Mike says NIWA and the Cawthron Institute, on behalf of the Marlborough District Council, have conducted extensive seabed surveys that confirm seabed damage from chain moorings.

“The driving force for us is wanting to provide an alternative that prevents the degradation of the seabed you see in the immediate footprint of chain moorings,” he says. “Our goal is to completely replace the damaging chain and metal components currently used in the mooring industry.”

Mike and Donna, who both grew up in North Canterbury, first met many decades ago when Mike was working as a young rural apprentice in a business run by Donna’s father.

“I was very fortunate to find a partner who then embraced my passion for diving,” says Mike, who travelled overseas frequently in the late 1970s and early 1980s on deep-sea dive missions connected with oil exploration.

Mike loved the work but he and Donna also shared an ambition to start their own business. In the mid-1980s, they were approached by a North Canterbury sheep farmer to see if they would be interested in assisting with marine farming in Marlborough.

Not long after that, they moved to Picton where Mike soon put his inventive mind to work.

“We developed the first dive-less underwater anchoring solution in the world and proceeded to develop and deliver hundreds of these around Australia, New Zealand and other countries,” he recalls.

In 1998, they then teamed up with a Swedish firm called Sea Flex that had pioneered an environmentally friendly rubber mooring system, combining their anchor expertise with Sea Flex on a number of projects.

The biggest scale anchor and mooring project they completed was for Australasia’s largest floating shopping complex and ferry terminal, Brooke Street Pier in Hobart, Tasmania. “That was a really fantastic job.”

By 2009, Mike and Donna had started developing their own elastic mooring product to meet growing demand for even heavier duty rubber mooring. The advice they had at the time was that it would be almost impossible to create such a product.

Undeterred, they devoted the next five years on research and development to come up with the right rubber formula. “We also worked with a German company, who are world leaders in engineering plastics, to help design a termination component to finish the cord. That was the true beginning of Marine Flex Ltd.”

With support from Callaghan Innovation, their new elastic mooring was thoroughly performance tested ahead of its release onto the international market in 2015. Their product is now being used in Australia, Canada, South Korea, Dubai, France, Italy and Belgium.

Last year, they provided 355 elastic units to anchor Israel’s first floating solar power station. Closer to home, Clearwater Mussels has embraced a special mussel float they developed for them using Marine Flex technology. Port Marlborough has also been very supportive as has local iwi Te Atiawa and others in New Zealand’s marine sector.

Mike and Donna hope the award success will encourage even greater take-up of their company’s environmentally friendly anchor and mooring systems.

© Waterford Press Ltd 2024 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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