Cruising ahead with expansion plans

Nick Welford (left) and John Wiffen from AMI Exchangers Ltd. Picture by FRANK REID. IRN
Nick Welford (left) and John Wiffen from AMI Exchangers Ltd. Picture by FRANK REID. IRN

A MARINE company from Hartlepool has expanded into supplying the cruise ship sector by taking over an American firm.

 AMI Exchangers, based on the Graythorp Industrial Estate, has acquired Applied Cooling Technology (ACT) in Miami.

 Bosses at the Hartlepool firm said the move gives them a foothold in a sector of the supply market they had not had before.

 AMI makes air coolers and heat exchangers for use in the shipping industry, as does ACT.

 Before the takeover, it became apparent to the Hartlepool firm that traditional markets were not moving as fast as before, and ships were “slow steaming” in the recession as well as working routes on the opposite side of the world, meaning there was less demand for new boilers. Sales director Nick Welford said: “We had to look for a new market and the best was leisure because people still book their family holidays.

 “We first moved into the cruise market about five to six years ago but then found that the centre of the industry was Florida. That is where the main players are and we had competitors out there.

 “We thought it was a good move to acquire this business and be able to offer customers a product on both sides of the pond. We are managing this business from afar.”

 ACT employs eight people and AMI, which received a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2010, has “set a budget” for it, said Mr Welford. Delegates from both the UK and USA will meet next week to discuss a strategy for the future.

 Mr Welford added: “Cruising amounts to 25 per cent of our business but it is 75 to 80 per cent for them.

 “We have to move the business in to the cruise and offshore markets and we have to be hungry and look for new markets.”

 If the economic hard times lift, there is also the opportunity for AMI to expand its operation in Hartlepool, said Mr Welford.

 “We are on a five acre site and we have developed about half of it. At the moment, everyone is keeping numbers tight but if things change we would have no problem in developing the business further here.”