Striking the right balance of using modern technologies with the skill and craftsmanship found in the hundreds of family-owned boat builders dotting the Gulf Coast, Technology Associates, Inc., or TAI, has found a way to effectively develop different types of shipping vessels for industry, export operations and government purposes. In 2011, the New Orleans-based naval architecture firm introduced its TAI EnviroMax series of designs. Featuring a wide range of advanced technologies and fuel efficient components, Technology Associates’ M/V Harvey Hawk was named as one of the “Significant Boats of 2013” at the International WorkBoat show. Launching from a region with a rich heritage of ship and boat building, Technology Associates has emerged as a leader in its field from its headquarters in New Orleans. Founder and President Anil Raj shares his company’s innovation story:
[Q] Why did you pick Louisiana to launch Technology Associates?
[A] I first moved to New Orleans in 1977 because it has an interesting, diverse culture and a unique character. The quality of life is good and the people are hard working and fun loving. My children were brought up here and call it home. When I decided to start my business, it was natural for me to be close to a state with a rich heritage of shipbuilding and marine operations. Though we were regularly raided by Houston and other big cities for employees, we were fortunate to be able to get new diverse professionals from other states and national origins to join us and make Louisiana home. We have had professionals from Ohio, Florida, Venezuela, Cuba, Finland, India, Hawaii and many other places join us. I believe such diversity contributes to unique and non-traditional thought processes, which promotes creativity.
[Q] What unexpected advantages did Technology Associates benefit from that could only be found in Louisiana?
[A] Louisiana is close to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and is home to the mouth of the Mississippi River system. These are ripe markets for Louisiana shipbuilders, including small shipyards, and I have often seen some pretty large vessels built by enterprising Louisiana craftsmen with sparse equipment. Shipbuilding is innate to South Louisiana. The potential of working with so many talented smaller shipbuilders and participate in their growth is challenging and interesting. Louisiana also has a very good Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering College at the University of New Orleans (UNO). Our offices are located close to UNO, and we always have a couple of interns from the university. They are encouraged to participate and contribute.
[Q] What is Technology Associates doing that no other company is doing?
[A] There are many Offshore Supply Vessel (OSV) designs in the market, but many are just older OSV design derivatives that were stretched longer, deeper and wider to save engineering costs. Because of this “stretching” evolution, most of the evolved designs are not as efficient as they can be. The exponential growth in size requirement, with minimal investment in technological development, left a void for a “ground up” and “clean sheet of paper” look at the technology. This presented us with an opportunity to study most of the existing OSV designs and develop a cost competitive series of designs which are more efficient, can carry more cargoes, faster, using less energy, in the same hull envelope, and be built competitively. The Technology EnviroMax™ © design provides that. TAI has also introduced its Zero Fuel Zero Emissions patent protected vessel design, for which we are now negotiating funding to build a full-scale prototype.
[Q] How does Technology Associates impact the Louisiana economy?
[A] In the last four years, more than $400 million in new vessels from TAI designs have been, or are being, built in Louisiana. Some are also in other Gulf Coast shipyards. Many others are undergoing major modifications and upgrades. These vessels are being built for internationally respected owners and operators like Tidewater, Harvey Gulf International, Hornbeck Offshore, Fugro, Gulf Mark and others, as well as governmental agencies like the U.S. Army.
[Q] What would you say to aspiring Louisiana entrepreneurs and innovators?
[A] The fundamental fact in any business is that if a quality product does more for the client and the environment for the same price, the customers will always come. If you have conviction in your idea, don’t give up. Louisiana Economic Development is an easy-to-reach and very accessible government entity. Explore the potential with them. Louisiana is great place to live, with rich traditions, diverse cultures, great food, lots of extracurricular activities and friendly welcoming people that have a very basic mantra: Work hard and have fun. It is easy to assimilate into this society and call it home.