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Marine specialist opens new North East HQ and academy

14 September, 2023

A marine engineering specialist helping ports across the globe remain in shipshape has opened a new head office and training centre in Sunderland.

BollardScan has signed a five-year lease for a 110sq m hybrid head office and training hub at Washington Business Centre.

Entrepreneurs Marc Cleophas and Willem van Hoorn set up the business in 2016 to market a new way of helping ports monitor and improve the integrity of mooring bollards.

Adopting a vibration based form of non-destructive testing (NDT), based on a pioneering software solution, the test allows port operators to monitor the condition of critical infrastructure, ensuring vessels can safely dock at their ports.

Should a mooring bollard pass the BollardScan test, the company insures it for three years. However, should a bollard fail the safety checks, it will recommend changes to improve its safety or condemn it as unfit for use.

Over the past seven years, this has seen BollardScan's system utilised over 6,500 times at some of the world's largest ports and has seen the firm assemble a team of over 50 analysts and testers spanning six continents.

It has also been indefinitely approved by Lloyd's Register, the global maritime charity which has provided classification and compliance services to the marine and offshore industries since it was founded in London in 1760.


Willem van Hoorn, co-founder and director, said: "Marc and I set up BollardScan to improve the way in which we test and monitor the integrity of mooring bollards but even we couldn't have envisaged the impact it would have.

"When you look back, mooring bollards have been a critical part of the maritime ecosystem for centuries, but the way in which we have assessed the integrity of bollard structures and evaluated the condition of mountings over time has largely gone unchanged - until now.

"Over the past seven years, our vibration-based testing approach has been utilised on ports on six continents, from Abu Dhabi to the US, and with a number of new projects in the pipeline, the growing demand for our services from customers in all four corners of the globe has given us high hopes for the years ahead."


This increasing demand has led to the company sparking a recruitment drive for more analysts and testers to carry out its scans and the opening of a new head office and training centre to cater for its growing headcount.

Having outgrown its previous space at the Sunderland City Council-owned Evolve Business Centre in Houghton-le-Spring, the firm was keen to remain in the city and after being shown around the Council's Washington Business Centre hub by the Business Investment Team, decided to sign a five-year-lease on a hybrid head office and training centre.


Willem added: "One of the key challenges we have as we grow is finding people with the skills required to conduct and analyse our tests, which is why we decided to try a different approach.

"By launching our own simulation space, we can fly people in from around the world to learn how to conduct tests and use the technology in groups - instead of having our operators fly out to multiple territories.

"We have also signed a deal with Port of Blyth which will see our students conduct testing in a real scenario which is fantastic, because we know that, as soon as they've graduated, they have already got real-world experience of using the software.

"We've already got people flying in from Brazil, and South Africa, Australia and the USA as part of our first cohort starting in September and we're absolutely delighted to be able to show them around the North East and to be continuing to invest in the region."


Cllr Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: "Bollardscan is a real innovator in its field and is a fantastic North East success story.

"Since setting up in the city seven years ago, it has revolutionised how one of the world's most traditional industries operates and established itself as a real exporting champion.

"We're delighted they are continuing to invest in the city and look forward to seeing them continue to go from strength-to-strength as they continue to innovate and grow."


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