Challenge: Changing the face of marine safety around the world
Solution: Incorporating science into advanced training systems
Today Anthony Patterson is president and CEO of Virtual Marine Technology Inc., a St. John’s-based company that develops simulators for maritime safety. More than 14 years ago, however, Anthony was a student at Memorial University in St. John’s. He was exploring how to improve the way lifeboats were launched during hurricanes. What he discovered was a much bigger issue – and a much bigger commercial need.
“A government report found that more people were killed in lifeboat training than saved by them. In the last 104 years, there had been no substantive change in lifeboat training,” says Anthony.
Virtual Marine Technology has transformed that unfortunate reality by becoming the first company to bring lifeboat simulation to the offshore oil and gas industry. “Up to 95% of lifeboat training traditionally has nothing to do with putting you in a lifeboat,” notes Anthony. Simulation, however, does not require long airport waits, downtime in hotel rooms, or searching online for direct flights.
Indeed, the oil and gas industry is embracing the benefits of the 21st century training being offered by Virtual Marine. “Simulation training [is] dramatically different and dramatically better,” says Anthony.
Since 2004, when the company launched, more than 2,000 incremental improvements have been made to its simulation systems and that quality improvement continues. “It was a 10-year journey to be lucky,” laughs Anthony. “Now the story is getting out. The industry has moved from simulation prohibited to simulation preferred.”
Not content to ride a wave of complacency, Virtual Marine, now with 26 employees, has expanded to include simulation in the areas of fast rescue craft, ice management and platform orientation and confined spaces. “The product list is getting longer,” says Anthony. “All of this has been driven by our customers.”
For entrepreneurs looking to change the landscape in a specific industry, Anthony offers this advice: Be patient and be impatient. “It takes a long time to bring new products to market. You have to have strategic patience and operational impatience.”
Accessing financial capital is something the Government of Canada recognizes as critical to building, growing, and scaling a business. With support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), the government is helping Virtual Marine bring its virtual training simulation system to new clients. Recent investments totalling $1.5 million assisted the company in their international marketing and growth efforts.
Virtual Marine Technology is a prime example of how innovation and resourcefulness fuel Atlantic Canada’s economy, at home and beyond.
Do you have a business concept? Do you have an innovative idea to improve or grow your business? For more information on programs and services available to businesses in Atlantic Canada call 1-800-561-7862 or go to canada.ca/acoa.