Cutting edge marine technology

Ravi Bhalsod and Sasha Heriot, employees of UK-based Guidance Marine Limited - acquired by Wärtsilä - are used to working in a state-of-the-art innovative environment. We caught up with them to find out more about what they do.

“As a company, Guidance Marine is driven by new technologies and innovations,” comments Sasha Heriot, who has been the company’s Business Development & Key Account Manager for just over three years. Prior to that, she was an academic, having completed a PhD in Physics. However, Heriot admits she has never before worked with so many ambitious, competent individuals.

“Our people are some of the leading experts in their respective fields, which is what enables us always to be at the forefront of technology. This is one of the main reasons why this is such a fun, interesting place to work,” she says.

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Sasha Heriot is Guidance Marine's Business Development & Key Account Manager.

Leader in dynamic positioning

Guidance Marine is the marine industry technology leader for sensor solutions related to dynamic positioning and other vessel control systems, such as collision avoidance and remote control operations. Its principal market is in oil & gas and offshore operations, where its sensor technology is crucial to the oil platforms and the vessels that serve them. These include the platform supply vessels and floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) units that use Guidance Marine’s laser- and radar-based sensors to ensure accurate positioning in close proximity to the platforms.

Ravi Bhalsod, Guidance Marine’s Marketing Officer, has been with the company for under four years. Prior to that, he worked in pharmaceuticals and had no experience of marine applications. He admits that, when an opportunity came up to join Guidance Marine, he threw himself in at the deep end and has never looked back.

“What I like most about my job is that we’re always facing new challenges. For our engineers, that usually means an improvement that needs to be made or a new technology that needs to be developed. For me in marketing, this eventually results in a new product that needs to be launched,” he says.

“What amazes me most is how our engineers seem to be able to find solutions to just about any problem. Sometimes you look at a new technology and think it’s impossible to do but then they just pull it out of the bag,” Bhalsod continues.

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Ravi Bhalsod is Guidance Marine’s Marketing Officer.

Global business

Founded in 1991, Guidance Marine employs about 55 people across four offices, located in Leicester and Aberdeen, in the UK, Singapore, and New Orleans in the U.S. While the Head Office in Leicester acts as the centre for research & development (R&D) as well as manufacturing, the other offices are located close to the major offshore customer bases where they perform sales and support activities.

“We’re like a family,” says Bhalsod. “We sit in a completely open-plan office, where everyone knows everyone, and we all share the same successes and failures.”

Development close to customers

As the person responsible for maintaining and developing Guidance Marine’s key accounts – which include major OEMs that develop dynamic positioning systems – Heriot acts as a liaison between Guidance Marine’s R&D team and its customers. 

“Apart from keeping our customers up to date with our products, I work closely with our engineers in the development of new products,” Heriot explains. As she already has a close relationship with many of Guidance Marine’s largest customers, she takes every opportunity to speak with engineers from the customer organisations and find out what their needs are. 

“I then communicate this back to our own product developers to make sure we develop the technologies our customers really want. I believe this way of working is crucial to our ability to quickly respond to market needs,” she adds.

A few years ago, Guidance Marine used customer feedback to update the user interface on its sensors. In the past, each sensor solution had its own interface but, having taken on board feedback from its customers, all its sensors now look more or less the same from the user perspective. This means that an end user who knows how to use one Guidance Marine product will also intuitively know how to work with the others.

Staying ahead of the competition

Another example of Guidance Marine’s quick response to market demands is its latest technology, which uses so-called “targetless” sensors to scan and map out the environment surrounding a vessel.

“Existing sensor technology requires a vessel to be fitted with a sensor that connects with a so-called “target” on the other vessel, oil platform or dock with which it is linking up. With our new technology, this target will not be needed – the sensor will work as a standalone technology,” says Bhalsod. 

While its main competitors are still in the process of catching up with existing technology, Guidance Marine is already preparing to launch the next-generation of game-changing sensor solutions.

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Guidance Marine's CyScan system is a local position reference sensor for marine Dynamic Positioning (DP) applications.


Managing multiple product launches

Bhalsod admits that he and his colleague Sam Murfin in the Marketing department are kept on their feet by regular new product launches. Together, they are responsible for managing and co-ordinating the launches and making sure all the communication and marketing material, as well as the technical documentation, is up to date.

“For me, working under the same roof as our engineers is a real advantage, as they are always on hand to explain the complicated technical details and help me communicate our products in a way that’s accessible for our end users,” says Bhalsod.

“In 2017, we launched three new products and, this year, we’ve got two launches and a major upgrade scheduled,” he continues. “I work with the sales and engineering teams to collate all the information the market needs and try to present it in the most effective way. Suffice to say, the job never gets boring!”

Guidance Marine and Wärtsilä

As a Wärtsilä company, Guidance Marine now has a new set of opportunities to look forward to. Up to now, its sensor technology has primarily been used in the oil & gas and offshore sectors, but operating under the Wärtsilä umbrella will create new business opportunities. While the cruise ship segment currently relies on GPS as its navigational support, Guidance Marine’s technology uses laser- and radar-based technologies, which are not only more accurate but also not sensitive to blocking, spoofing or signal shadows. 

“Our sensor technology is applicable to any kind of large vessel,” says Heriot. “As vessels get larger and channels become increasingly complicated to navigate, our sensor technology is the most accurate, reliable positioning tool there is.”

Written by
Isabelle Kliger
Contributing Writer at Spoon Agency