Carmanah Technologies Inc. has a knack for showing up in world hot spots.
The Victoria-based manufacturer of solar-powered, light-emitting diode lights has its product all over Afghanistan, Iraq and -- by week's end -- on the waters off Haiti. Carmanah's marine navigation lights will be bolted to buoys and bobbing in the Caribbean, lighting a path to Haitian ports for international aid, military and other marine traffic flowing into the embattled country. Rebel-led forces captured the capital, Port-Au-Prince, over the weekend after president Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled the country.
Carmanah, which employs 55 at its Vic West plant, filled an emergency order from the U.S. Coast Guard on Monday morning. Workers programmed, packaged and shipped 43 lights in just over four hours, a process that normally takes a couple of weeks.
Carmanah spokeswoman Mimi Drabit said a Fed-Ex flight delivered the order to a South Carolina coast guard depot. The lights will be loaded on cutters in Miami and installed in the coming days to mark routes for U.S. and other foreign ships supporting a United Nations stabilization force.
The same lights, dubbed the 700 Series, are in use in more than 100 countries around the world, including Iraq's Khawr Abd Allah Waterway, a key navigation channel leading to the port of Umm Qasr, critical for post-war aid shipments and military traffic. Closer to home, the same lights are installed just off the Ogden Point Breakwater and in the harbour near the Songhees for floatplane and boat traffic.
Carmanah's solar-powered lights have become a preferred product with the U.S. army, air force and naval groups because they require next to no maintenance and last up to eight years. The lights are solar-powered, so require no wiring, are self-contained and compact and instantly operational. Installation usually requires only a wrench and a couple of bolts.
The U.S. air force has used Carmanah's lights extensively for its campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. The light-emitting diode technology has been getting a thumbs-up for safety from pilots who previously had to remove their night-vision goggles when landing between incandescent runway lights because of 'blooming' or blinding effects.
Carmanah's aviation lighting division set a new sales record last month, selling 2,250 units and surpassing the $1 million mark in orders in the first 49 days of 2004. The latest batches -- 230 units -- went to the Japan Air Self-Defence Force -- a purchase based on feedback from the U.S. Air Force -- and a repeat order for 320 lights for a U.S. base in Kuwait, where more than 1,000 Carmanah units are now installed.
Since Carmanah's foray into aviation lighting last April, more than 6,000 lights have been sold in 30 countries. Most are on runways at U.S. bases in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and North America, but major airports are using them, too. The world's busiest, Chicago's O'Hare, and others in Aukland and Milan have all lined runways with Carmanah lights in the last few months.
"The magnitude of the orders, typically starting in the hundreds of units for a single airfield, is having a multiplier effect on our sales," said Carmanah CEO Art Aylesworth. "And with several thousand airports in the U.S. alone, we are confident the interest in our products will continue growing at a rapid rate."
Trading in Carmanah Technologies (TSXV: CMH) stock was brisk Tuesday as shares rose five cents to $2.60.