An island innovation
Living on an island has forced Tasmanians to ‘think outside the box’. And a Tassie company from Legana has done just that with a high-tech innovation that’s attracting global attention – including the eye of the US navy.
Pivot Maritime International is the little northern Tasmanian company making big waves in the naval world.
And the cause of this commotion? Pivot’s innovative portable simulator that can be taken on board naval vessels – a vast improvement on its competitors' larger land-based offerings.
Pivot's remarkable product generated considerable interest with the US Navy. Australia and New Zealand are also taking notice, and that’s just for starters!
The company’s big break came during a trip to the United States last month as part of the Tasmanian delegation to the Sea-Air-Space expo.
Exciting? “It’s been a long, hard road,” Pivot Managing Director, Jeffrey Hawkins laughs. “But it’s great when it all comes together!”
It’s a long way from small-town Legana to US Navy heartland. But that’s the journey that Jeffrey, who set up Pivot in 1996, has taken.
And, it seems this former ship’s captain does not fear the tyranny of distance.
“It’s a very competitive industry,” he tells us. “You can’t be in Legana and only look at Tasmania or Australia. You have to think globally which is what we have always done. And if you don’t, you don’t make it,” he adds.
Last month following the Sea-Air-Space expo in Washington DC, Jeffrey found himself mingling with US top brass at the Mid Atlantic Maritime Academy (MAMA) in Norfolk in Virginia, where he was invited to demonstrate his Tasmanian innovation. Elements of the US Navy based at Norfolk Naval Station, the largest naval base in the world, came to view demonstrations at the MAMA and receive briefings.
“We had the three key areas of the US Navy all come and be part of the demonstration. We had the carrier fleet, which is all the aircraft carriers, the surface fleet and the support fleet, or Military Sealift Command [MSC],” Jeffrey explains.
“Rear Admiral Jesse Wilson, Commander of Naval Surface Force Atlantic was at the Sea-Air-Space expo and his specialist Atlantic Surface Fleet staff attended the Norfolk demonstrations and briefings. Stephen Cahill, Executive Director of MSC attended also. We had all the key people, and they also brought the people below them.
“What we presented was very, very unique to them. None of our competitors have anything like this.”
Put simply, other high-tech simulators are fixed in a room on shore. But Pivot’s compact portable version can also be taken onto ships.
“For instance, if you are coming into a difficult port, or you need to refuel at sea in rough conditions, then you can practice on our simulator just before you actually do it,” Jeffrey explains.
“This takes away the risk of many operations - all those surprises. You don’t want to be taking the chance of whether you can, or can’t, do something.”
The US Navy is very interested in Pivot’s product, which costs around $150,000 - a small price to pay to protect assets worth billions of dollars.
Defence is big business in Tasmania. And, it’s getting bigger.
The sector is worth $340 million each year, and Tasmania’s growing reputation as a defence supplier was showcased at Sea-Air-Space 2019, which is the largest maritime and naval aviation expo in the United States.
Local companies and organisations – including CBG Systems, Liferaft Systems Australia, Muir Engineering, and the Australian Maritime College – joined Pivot as part of the Tasmanian delegation organised by the Department of State Growth.
It was spearheaded by Tasmania’s Defence Advocate, Rear Admiral (Ret) Steve Gilmore. He pointed out that this global event, “creates considerable opportunities for the state’s defence industry manufacturers and service suppliers to directly present their products.”
“The Tasmanian companies presented highly innovative and often unique capabilities, generating considerable interest across the board,” he concludes.
Images courtesy of the Department of State Growth and Pivot Maritime International
21 June 2019, Edition 206