Antifouling does not mean cleaning up cat mess: An interview with CMS Marine

The recession had a delayed impact on the superyacht market and many companies are only now rebuilding their business following the after affects.  Yachting Pages spoke to Sam Crawford, project manager from CMS Marine to see how marine electronic providers have survived the economic downturn.  He also shared some amusing stories, including an enquiry about cat mess…

When was your business founded? 

 CMS Marine was founded in 1982 by our current managing director. It started from an office in Gloucester with a desk, phone and fax machine. The company originally provided a service for electronic interface cards, which in those days were only being produced by large multinationals.


In your own words how would you describe your business? 

We are a design, development and manufacture company being driven by ensuring every product we make is at the forefront of our technical capability. We are development crazy in other words.

Our outlook is simple, make the product well and look after our customers. It is a family run business allowing us the ability to discuss all aspects of customer needs and technical developments easily.  

The company's customer base has changed a lot over the years, but we are proud to still supply some of our original customers. From the very early days we have exported our products worldwide. During the mid-1990's there was a strong UK demand and although we still have a presence in the UK market, the trend to export is happening all over again.


What makes you different from your competitors? 

Customer service works two ways for us. Keeping our customer happy ensures continued success, but listening to feedback and predicting our client’s future requirements is what sets us apart from our competitors.

If the product or service can be improved it will be. We proactively work on the next generation of products, which can be risky from a development point of view as it costs significant sums of money to research and develop new offerings. We work on the principle that even if you get it completely wrong, or if you have misread the market you are no further behind a competitor who hasn't even started.

The company is structured to develop and it has worked. Having core strategies in-house whilst working with good suppliers and subcontractors gives flexibility to meet demand, be this high or low depending on the stage of the lifecycle.


What’s new with your business? 

We have recently found some alternative markets for our marine products and this is very exciting for us at the moment. We spread across some very different market sectors from yacht antifouling to online game software development.


The strange thing with diversity is its ability to cross over in the most unusual ways. When speaking with long-term customers from one market, you find out they have a requirement for products you offer from another, or people they know have a problem that a product we offer can solve with some modification


Is there anything that people don’t know that you would like to announce?

From a superyacht perspective the most important thing people don’t know about us is that we currently supply some very exclusive superyacht OEM's [What does this stand for?] with our products. The likes of Baltic Yachts in Finland and Ocean Alexander are but a few. Our product is used by a lot more superyachts than most people would imagine.


Who is your key target audience?

Any person, be that a superyacht owner, captain, crew member or yacht management company that is involved with the ongoing process of either reducing the reliance of standard antifouling paint or is responsible for reducing the downtime, maintenance and overall running cost of a superyacht.


What are the biggest challenges that you face in the superyacht industry at the moment?

Product and technology awareness. Every superyacht has the problem of fouling and thus would benefit from having a long-term approach to the problem. The other main problem with the technology is that the results are not instant. Unlike a new AV system or underwater lighting our product works away tirelessly and its results are seen over a longer period of time.


How is business? Have you been effected by the recession?

Sales have not been reduced by the recession within the superyacht sector as our product saves money and so this type of product is more attractive in times of austerity. That being said when the purse strings get drawn tighter our product is not at the top of everyone’s wish list and because of this, I am sure we have been missed off the options list of some owners.


What are your top tips in your industry?

Research new ways of doing things. If you look into all of the options you will have the knowledge to make an informed decision. It may turn out that your tried and tested way of thinking is still the best option, equally you may just find something new works even better.


What is the most bizarre client request you’ve received?

Marketing any product with the word "fouling" in its title will always have its misunderstandings. To all of us in the marine industry it has a very different meaning to the little old lady who called me up one day to enquire if it would stop the neighbour’s cats from using her garden as a toilet. We had to laugh.


What are the current trends in your sector at the moment?

Annual or biannual trips to the large yards for an expensive haul and antifoul are getting less and less. There have been some amazing developments in paint technology over the last few years on the back of strict EU rules and customer demands. The combination of the increased fuel charges and environmental effects are making the industry look at ways to reduce the reliance on standard paints.


What superyachts/big clients have you worked with that you can share?

We have a range of clients in the sector some of which are confidential. One of the largest we can mention is the Baltic 107 S/Y Inukshuck based over in the United States, originally from the Baltic yard in Finland.

Client yachts range from the larger offerings from the European OEMs such as Sunseeker, Princess, Azimuth and Riva through to the more custom build such as Zeelander, Ocean Alexander and Baltic Yachts.


Who would be your dream client?

I am really big on motorsport and so any F1 boss / owner would be a scoop for me. More for bragging rights with my friends than anything else. We have had some enquiries that are still in discussion so fingers crossed it may just happen.

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