Gustavo Adolfo Ángel Sanín, physical oceanographer, has served in the Navy for 30 years and presently represents Intermar a3, a company that has been created interesting developments for the marine industry that are 100% Colombian.
In this issue, we present the history and strategy of this young company that is preparing to take a leadership role in the growing Colombian marine industry.
How did Intermar A3 get started in the Colombian marine industry?
A3 Intermar was formed about a year and a half ago with Colombian and foreign capital. The foreign capital came from a Spanish partner with over thirty years’ experience in the marine industry in countries such as Korea, Spain, Switzerland, France, Brazil and the Dominican Republic, as well as others. In early 2015, this Spanish company contacted me to discuss their decision to invest in Colombia and, in this way, invest in the future of the marine market that is still virgin in this country. Intermar a3 was created with Colombian partners as well as this Spanish company that, in addition to capital, has contributed a wealth of experience in floating and fixed docks and the technology needed to build sustainable and efficient facilities.
What do you mean when you speak of a project that is 100% Colombian?
We initially imported products, but we quickly realized that it was very complicated; there were administrative barriers, tariffs, customs delays, and in general the nationalization process. I remember in some of our meetings we realized that “the important thing is to not be important,” so we decided to accept the challenge and try to do everything as required in Colombia. It took us about eight months to develop matrices for the marine aluminum alloys, temple 6, which is a very strong alloy. Finally, we developed the product we needed with the respective technical, chemical and structural studies. We also decided to make all the parts: plastic, molding, floats, rubber with internal sinkers. We started doing everything in Colombia. That way we contribute to the industry and we have everything we need at any moment. The materials come from Medellin, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, Bogota and Cartagena. Unlike other companies, we do not import or assemble; we are manufacturers with a product that is 100% Colombian.
After the pieces are developed, how do you install them and do maintenance?
Our Spanish partner sent a qualified welding technician to Colombia who prepared our people, who already meet the standards required in this industry. Today, we are the only 100% national company in the industry. Although we have foreign capital and experience, our staff and materials are 100% Colombian.
What guarantees does a3 Intermar provide?
All the materials we use have been tested and are certified that they comply with all the necessary standards and qualities. Proof of this is what we installed at the Naval Cadet Academy, where everything works perfectly.
What is the project at the Naval Cadet Academy?
We just finished a big project: we built the aluminum framing for sail yachts, which are usually nine meters long, but these were twelve meters long, made with our aluminum structures. We also made floating docks for the academy’s 34 berth cruise ship type boats. In the convention center we did the same work, but that material was imported, because that project was one of our first.
Are you interested in competing in international markets?
Yes, we are ready for that step. We made contacts with ProColombia to export and reach the Central American and US market. We are ready to compete. At this point we are still in a “David versus Goliath” position. In Colombia we have taken a major step with floating docks. In fact, we have a project to develop this type of docks on Lake Calima and we are ready to work on one of the dams in Boyaca.
How does the business of floating docks work? Are there are different types?
Yes, some are made entirely of plastic rather than aluminum structures; they are simply assembled like a puzzle. Our docks are floating structures made with high strength aluminum and our profiles, so connections can be made and any need can be satisfied. Since we’re a national company we can provide the exact measurements required by the client. Typically, foreign companies are limited to sizes that fit in containers, but we can handle other measurements and develop other needed parts. For example, we just installed a 5x5 meter marine terrace at the convention center that can be transported to Cholón or any other island. These parts can be tailored to the customer, made larger or smaller, according to their needs.
How would you describe the floating dock that a3 Intermar manufactures and installs?
Our floating docks are aluminum structures with rotationally molded floats and polyurethane fillers underneath so that, if those floats burst, it still floats and there is no risk of sinking. Since they’re modular they can be changed, the aluminum profiles of the structure can be repaired, and they can be changed to either side. Also, railings can be installed and large pleasure boats can dock there. The profiles depend structurally on the size of the boat that will dock there.
The docks are normally made of concrete; how are floating docks different?
I'll give you an example: in one section of the dock at the Naval Academy we had to demolish 72 concrete piles, plus all the beams and concrete platforms. The dock that we made is twice the size of the one we tore down and we only needed six piles. The advantage of a floating dock instead of a concrete one is that it does not damage the environment. The floating docks of the Naval Academy are improving the mangroves, both for fish and fingerlings. You can see how the floats that give shade are in contact with the water, there are plenty of tiny fish as well as large ones. It’s different with the piles; they are very intrusive because they are sunk into the ground and, when they are removed, they damage the environment. That does not happen with floating docks.
What is much difference in cost between a concrete dock and a floating one?
With a floating dock costs are also lower: it is not the same to sink two or three piles for a floating dock or the 70 that are needed for a concrete one. Additionally, the floating dock can be removed, so if in the future you want to sell the land, or the dock itself, you can simply take it apart, do maintenance, and take it somewhere else and install it. A floating dock is guaranteed for more than fifteen years.
Are they a solution for all types of docks for private boats?
Obviously, concrete piers cannot be compared to floating ones. Floating docks are more oriented to pleasure boats and large luxury yachts, but not ship type boats. These docks are ideal for nautical and tourist development.