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Marlborough Company Welcomes Deep Water Challenges

A Marlborough diving company has developed an innovative anchor system that is helping marine farmers develop new seaspace around New Zealand's coast, including the West Coast, Southland, Banks Peninsula, the Firth of Thames and Golden and Tasman Bays, assisting in the growth of an industry predicted to top $1billion by 2020.

As available shallow water for marine farming is being used up, aquaculturalists are moving further out into deep water and are looking to technology to help improve their production output. But while deep water offers more space to expand, it also brings a new element of danger to the divers carrying out their installation.

Commercial Diving Consultants (CDC) in Picton has developed a diverless anchor system that is being used by marine farmers around New Zealand and so far more than 6,500 of these spiral anchors have been installed on hundreds of mussel, salmon and oyster farms. The company has just confirmed its largest order yet, for the Wilsons Bay Consortium in the Firth of Thames.

Mike Baker, a CDC director, says the move by marine farmers into ever-deeper water highlighted safety and decompression issues for divers and became the focus for the company’s innovative new product. Funding from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, through its business-focussed Technology New Zealand scheme, helped CDC carry out the research and development leading to a diverless refinement to the spiral anchor.

“We can now install spiral anchors remotely from a workboat, which means increased diver safety, lower costs for the marine farmer and a cost competitive operation for our company,” he says. “Although spiral anchors have been around for some time, this installation system is a real breakthrough. Customers are telling us that they are astonished at the speed of installation and cost savings compared to other anchor systems.”

The company has continued its research and development to meet industry demand for deep-water sites and the creation of a more robust anchor. “Developing offshore sites requires a system that can be installed to a greater depth within the seabed,” says Mike Baker. ‘It’s a high-energy environment and needs greater holding potential.”

The spiral anchor is screwed several metres into the seabed and can hold heavier loads than traditional drag anchors which were fixed to the floor by divers. “Spiral anchors can be placed with great precision and that helps marine farms fit into their exact, permitted boundaries,” says Mr Baker. “Only a square metre of seabed is disturbed and only for a short period of time during installation and that helps minimise any environmental disturbance.”

While the company specialises in anchoring systems for marine farms, Mr Baker also believes there is a large potential market in marinas and moorings, where boats could be secured more safely than with conventional anchoring.

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