Business is holding up well in tough financial circumstances, thanks to the work of Comet distributors, says Chemring Marine managing director Robert Hill in the latest Global Business Update.

We heavily promote referral to our Comet website and show our strong alignment to our major Comet liferaft partner, Viking. We also make well-publicised use of the websites Ship Technology, World Cruise Network and World Cruise Industry Review as portals for signposting to industry safety and purchasing professionals.

The marketing and communication programme is aimed at maintaining Chemring Marine and Comet’s position as the authoritative voices in marine distress signalling. Active participation on legislation-forming bodies is continuous and carried out on a worldwide basis. Product and brand awareness at liferaft service stations around the world is supported by a mix of direct communication with our monthly Illuminator electronic newsletter and direct promotion with in-workshop product guides and prompters.

Additionally, this month we launched our ‘Signals Inside’ programme to get service stations to place waterproof ‘Comet Distress Signals Inside’ on all liferaft containers. Global liferaft service stations are helping to raise the profile of Comet with special promotional stickers.

The distinctive 150mm x 76mm stickers, carrying the Comet logo and the words ‘Comet Distress Signals Inside’ will be supplied to stations to fix on liferaft containers and valises and will help promote the brand’s safety credentials in a similar way to the Intel Inside stickers on personal computers.

New build contracting has still not picked up. Only seven contracts of 0.1m CGT and 0.2m dwt were reported last month. There are, however, still 12 new passenger ships with some 30,000 berths being launched in 2009. In liferaft terms, this is equivalent to over 500 cargo vessels. A similar number of vessels are planned for 2010. The lack of new builds will affect the sale of new liferafts, but not the core liferaft service business. Ships still have to remain legal.

Just 18 contracts of 0.3m CGT and 0.8m have been reported so far in 2009. If contracting were to continue at this rate for the remainder of the year, the total number of contracts in 2009 would only just exceed 100 vessels, which would be the lowest number of contracts ever reported in a year. It would normally be 1,000-1,500 per year. Obviously, there is still much of 2009 left to run and, as the latter part of 2008 demonstrated, a great deal can happen in a short space of time.

No new contracts have been reported for any containerships in 2009. In fact, the last reported contract in this sector was over six months ago, at the beginning of October 2008.