New Zealand’s leading marine electronics distributor and manufacturer, Electronic Navigation Ltd (ENL) will achieve a significant milestone throughout 2016 when the company celebrates 70-years of operation.
Formed in December 1945, the company started as a small public company by Dr Russel Thomas and Mr Duncan Cox. 70 years later the ENL Group company operates between its three offices in Auckland and Nelson, and more recently a satellite office in Europe supporting its locally manufactured global brand WASSP Multi-Beam Sonar. Add to that its 70 FURUNO dealers in New Zealand and the South Pacific and 30 WASSP distributors globally.
In its formative years, the company’s primary focus was the servicing of electronics for the commercial fishing industry, which at that time was largely a coastal inshore fishery. The company then diversified into manufacturing radio direction finders and double sideband radios. From there, ENL’s modern face evolved during the early 1960s, when former Navy man, Jack Williamson (MBE), took over the company and signed up as New Zealand’s FURUNO agent.
Having joined Jack Williamson at ENL in the 70’s part-time while still in the Royal New Zealand Navy, operating from an old villa house in Grey Lynn in 1986, Mike Hodson convinced his wife, young family & the banks that he take over 100% ownership of ENL. This was a significant milestone for ENL allowing Mike to take control of his vision and in 1990 ENL R&D was established, focusing on game-changing technology for the commercial fishing sector.
In 1991, Mike’s son Gareth ‘officially’ joined ENL as a trainee engineer under the tutelage of ex-Navy Radio Engineers in the service department before moving to R&D as a field engineer. After many roles with ENL (all but one, accounts), Gareth had a stint playing rugby in Wales before being lured back to the family business taking on senior management roles, before taking over as CEO and then Managing Director in December 2010.
Relationships have been key for ENL. It has been FURUNO’s exclusive New Zealand distributor for over 50 years, and the relationship remains strong. The close association with FURUNO is one of the key relationships that have characterized ENL’s growth and ongoing position as the country’s top marine electronics company’s. The relationship was solidified when in 2014 FURUNO took a 10% shareholding in the company, increasing that to 29.5% in 2015. Another testament to the FURUNO & ENL relationship is that FURUNO of Japan; the largest marine electronics company in the world has been the WASSP Distributor in 22 countries since 2010.
Always at the forefront of innovation, part of ENL’s global success was the development of WASSP (Wide Angle Sonar Seafloor Profiler), a high-quality ocean floor profiling system. Since its commercial introduction in 2006, WASSP has established itself as a major leader in this specialised and technically demanding market with significant numbers of systems sold into sectors such as commercial fishing, defence, survey & mapping and super-yacht applications.
Managing Director Gareth Hodson says the celebration is a significant milestone for the company.
“Like many ‘Kiwi’ companies, ENL came from very small beginnings with a focus on innovation, that number 8 wire and thinking outside the square mentality, where anything is possible. To celebrate 70-years after enduring many challenges and successes is outstanding for us,” says Hodson.
“There are too many wonderfully talented and dedicated people from previous ENL generations to mention and thank. Although I will say that the ENL legacy of customer service and pushing technological barriers is still ingrained in our culture, and I believe sets us apart from the pack. Our focus everyday is to ensure we continue to uphold the legacy of ENL set before us and continue to meet and exceed our customers’ expectations world-wide”.
“We are very proud of what we have achieved here at ENL not only in our local domestic market but also with our global export sales of WASSP. We look forward to celebrating this milestone throughout 2016 with our key partners and customers.”
ENL Board Chairman Patrick Boyle echoed Hodson’s sentiments.
“I feel privileged to have been involved in the evolution of ENL during my time as independent chairman. I have seen first-hand just how the company’s very capable and committed staff have expanded the potential of the company while coping admirably with the various challenges that arise in this dynamic industry. New Zealand is a marine nation, with one of the world’s largest marine economic zones, and we rely on the success of companies like ENL to maximise and protect the wealth in marine areas, here and around the world,” says Boyle.