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Marport invests in growth


July 6, 2010
by Noelle Stapinsky, Features Editor

Marport president and CEO Karl Kenny and David Shea, lead engineer on the Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) project, checking out a dismantled unit.

Photo: Marport

Life at sea is in Newfoundland native Karl Kenny’s blood: fishing the deep blue Atlantic has been the livelihood of his family for centuries. Blessed with steady sea legs, he attended naval college and got his underwater experience serving as a Canadian Navy officer on a submarine where sonar is the only way to navigate and communicate.

So this entrepreneur knew a great opportunity when he saw one and acquired an Icelandic company established in 1996 called Marport to develop and manufacture acoustic sensing and communication instruments, and software.

Marport president and CEO Kenny set up a corporate structure called Marport Canada in 2003 with only four employees. Headquartered in Newfoundland, the company and its subsidiaries are Canadian owned and controlled.

Since its Canadian inception, the company has rapidly expanded, employing more than 100 people, with a revenue growth in the last five years of 5,234 per cent. Such aggressive growth has earned it the number five spot on PROFIT magazine’s annual ranking of Canada’s fastest growing companies.

The PROFIT 100, now in its 22nd year, ranks 200 companies—the top 100 and the “next 100”—by their five-year revenue growth rates, which are calculated using a base-year revenue of at least $200,000. This year’s top 100 averaged an impressive 1,753 per cent growth rate.

The St. John’s-based Marport specializes in products for commercial fisheries, underwater defence, offshore energy and ocean science markets. It builds instruments and sensor systems that attach to fishing nets for monitoring and measuring hydro-dynamic performance. For the underwater defence sector it supplies technology for applications such as harbour and port security, and anti-submarine warfare.

Global competition in this technology sector is robust, but what sets Marport apart is the versatility of its software.

According to Kenny, the marine industry has been centered on hardware. “A traditional piece of equipment is designed for one application and it pretty much has a single function,” says Kenny. “You can’t change its functionality, upgrade it or reprogram it dynamically. So you’re basically limited to a single function because it’s locked down by the nature of the design and architecture.”

Conventional hardware used in the marine industry would be equivalent to having one computer for e-mail, one for the internet, and one for word processing.