A new era in fishing technology: Marine Radio Acoustic Devices (MRAD) supplies cutting-edge navigation systems on board I & J’s new vessels

For Marine Radio Acoustic Devices (MRAD), the blessing and ‘christening’ of the two new vessels recently acquired by Irvin & Johnson ((I & J) was an important milestone in what has been a long association between the two companies.

The event, which took place at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town in November, saw the two new fishing vessels, the ‘Ferox’ and the ‘Umlobi’ being unveiled, named and blessed by Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu, daughter of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Also in attendance was guest of honour, the Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Reverend Doctor Thabo Makgoba. The two vessels were alongside the quay at Jetty no.2, and open for visitors to inspect.

MRAD, as the suppliers of the latest in on-board sonar technology for the two vessels, was proud to witness the unveiling and blessing ceremony, secure in the knowledge that the newly-installed Simrad sonar technology will significantly enhance the vessels’ navigation and fishing intelligence capabilities.

“MRAD has a long and fruitful history with I & J as a supplier of on-board electronic equipment for navigation and fishing research. We were fortunate to secure an order for a new Simrad SX93 sonar for the Umlobi, which was fitted during the vessel’s pre-delivery dry-docking in Norway. The Simrad SX93 is recognised as the best commercial and fisheries research sonar available today; and MRAD is proud to have been behind the procurement and installation of the equipment,” says Eddy Elschot, General Manager of MRAD.

The Norwegian vessel Umlobi, although not new, is in excellent condition, according to Elschot, and will be I & J’s new flagship vessel. A 2,600 gross ton fishing trawler, the Umlobi (meaning “fisherman” in Xhosa), will able to both catch and process all fish on-board.

The ‘Ferox’ (from the Latin for ‘fierce’) is a newly-built 910 gross ton stern trawler, capable of fast turnarounds and delivering fresh fish to the V&A Waterfront for further processing at I & J’s Woodstock plant in Cape Town.

“The Ferox represents a huge step forward in cutting-edge navigation and acoustic fish-finding technologies. The selection of the Simrad ES70 split beam fish-finder allows measurement of biomass, fish size and distribution of fish species within a school,” says Elshot. “In a nutshell, this allows the skipper to selectively and responsibly target the right size schools, avoiding both mixed and juvenile schools of fish.”


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MRAD, established in 1998, is the exclusive local distributor of Simrad, as well as other well-name brands in sonar, radar and navigation systems.

The company has a special focus on the fisheries and marine research environment, but has a wide and loyal customer base which includes the leisure market. In September 2015, Marine Data Solutions (MDSol) Group, a South African leader in maritime surveillance solutions, acquired a majority shareholding in MRAD.

“There are a number of important synergies between our companies,” comments Steve Nell, Managing Director of MDSol and MRAD. “As specialists in shore-based surveillance technologies, we are very pleased to be able to extend our offering to customers and leverage off each other’s expertise. MDSol and MRAD also share a strong customer focus, and MRAD’s long-term customer relationship with I & J is a strong example of this.”

The investment in the two new vessels has been described as “ground-breaking” by Christo Botha, Group Head of Engineering at I & J. “Of utmost importance to I & J is sustainability of the industry as evidenced through our certification through the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

“Our investment in the two new vessels has significant implications for the future of the international Cape Hake industry, and we are extremely grateful to MRAD for their expertise in the installation of our new state-of-the-art sonar equipment to assist in our vision for sustainable, responsible fishing.”

The good working relationship between I & J and MRAD was also evidenced in the commitment and professionalism shown by I & J’s engineering team, says Elshot. “The team spent many focused hours on the planning and layout of the bridge equipment on the ‘Ferox’ and the result was very effective.

“MRAD thanks the dedicated staff at I & J for their support and trust in selecting our cutting-edge Simrad technology; which will play a vital role in the future sustainability of our ‘Blue Ocean’ economy,” Elschot concludes.


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