Solar screens are not compulsory on board yachts but we've all heard stories of the effects of solar glare in terms of safety and possible damage to your eyes. Recognizing the potential market, Paul Pringle founded Solarglide in 2008, now supplying solar screens to some of the largest vessels afloat.
From generations of shipbuilders in the North East of England, Paul shares his take on the superyacht sector and what's new on the horizon.
What was your first job and how did you come to work in the maritime sector?
My first job (fresh out of university) was working for my father’s company ‘Martek Marine Ltd’ based in South Yorkshire. Martek Marine are a maritime safety and electronics company; I worked there for eight years in various positions including Production Manager, Blinds Manager and Service Manager.
The Maritime Sector runs in the family bloodline – my great grandfather and grandfather were shipbuilders; my father has worked in the sector all of his life, so it was a natural progression for me to follow in their footsteps. My little boy is also crazy about ships so the trend looks like it will continue for generations of ‘Pringles’ to come.
When did you start Solarglide and how did it come about?
I started Solarglide in February 2008 from my apartment in Leeds while working full time at a design agency. Having worked as Blinds Manager at Martek Marine I knew the product’s potential but I didn’t have the time to develop it further due to other work commitments. So after a year away from Martek Marine I decided to purchase this section of the business from them and the rest is history...
Paul Pringle, Founder & Managing Director
What is the company ethos and what’s your vision for the future?
Solarglide’s company ethos is always to put the customer first. If there is a problem we sort it out immediately. ‘Treat others how you want to be treated’.
Surround yourself with people of a similar mindset. My team are charismatic, hardworking, creative and ambitious. We are strong as individuals and even stronger together.
As well as superyachts, which types of vessels do you supply across the maritime sector?
We supply to all types of commercial vessel – from fishing trawlers through to the largest cruise liners in the world.
Essentially solar screens are a safety requirement to protect captains and crew from solar glare in the bridge – what’s the legal position on having solar screens fitted?
SOLAS regulation 5.1..1.2.6 titled ‘Removable Sunscreens’ states the following: ‘To ensure a clear view and to avoid reflections in bright sunshine, sunscreens with minimum colour distortion should be provided at all windows. Such screens should be readily removable and not permanently installed.’
SOLAS regulations are for guidance only, and it’s up to the crew, owners or managers to decide if they are needed. While legislation does not state that the screens must be installed, the benefits of having them make them a very desirable product, especially for crew working on the bridge.
Solar screens for ships must be fully retractable against the window. If there is poor weather or restricted visibility then the screens must have the option to be retracted back inside the cassette, otherwise they may become a navigational obstruction. For this reason adhesive solar films are not permitted on bridge windows.
The bridge of a vessel can become like a greenhouse during summer months; Solarglide solar screens reduce the heat by up to 15°C, and banish unwanted solar glare which can be a real threat to navigational operations. We often get the comment ‘How did we ever live without them?’
Kyle Renwick, Internal Sales Co-ordinator
Do you design and manufacture your own products?
Yes we design and develop 70% of our parts used in the manufacture of our screens – we do this by creating prototypes on our two in-house 3D printers, a technology we're investing in heavily at the moment.
Is there a signature product that clients most associate with Solarglide?
SG GLIDER solar screens are our signature product, however this is changing. We've seen a huge increase in the requirement for our blackout screens, dual screens and maritime curtains.
We are now also a UK hub for maritime chemicals; supplying chemicals to superyachts, boats and commercial ships operating and visiting UK and Irish shores.
To what extent can your products be customized?
Customization is one of Solarglide’s strengths – our screens have multiple film/fabric colours, multiple mechanisms, and a variety of cassette sizes. As well as manually operated screens we offer motorized screens, battery operated screens and solar powered screens. We can also powder coat our profiles to any RAL colour to match any yacht or vessel interior.
Solarglide recently equipped Harmony of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world – that must be a feather in your cap?
Yes, we're very proud of this achievement, it’s great to see all our hard work come to fruition!
In your experience, are there differences between the requirements of superyacht captains and captains of other types of vessel?
In my experience superyacht captains are looking for the latest technology and motorization and touch screen technology are popular choices for screen operations onboard superyachts. Also products that blend well with the existing superyacht interiors – this is extremely important. Commercial vessels tend to have a lot more windows on the bridge so motorization and colour specifications are less important. Functionality and clear visibility tops the list for tankers and cruise liners.
Are you concerned that Brexit may affect your business?
As a business we are remaining positive – the British public have made their decision to leave the EU so we now have to accept this as a business, and put measures in place to ensure our European customers continue to do business with us. The Brexit decision has had a positive effect on Solarglide exports following the decision to leave, mainly due to the value of the pound falling, making our products cheaper in Europe. However it’s hard to predict the future two or three years down the line. We will work even harder to ensure we remain a strong brand within the maritime sector.
Samantha McKinnon, Creative Designer
What is the most important thing you’ve learned through running your own business?
To tackle a problem head on, resolve it, don’t dwell on it and learn from it! This is what makes us strong as a business.
Do you foresee any new trends in window or bridge design in the next 10 years?
I predict that intelligent glass will be the next big thing – although I’m not sure it will happen in the next ten years as new technology takes time to become established and it can be costly to begin with. Also the shipping industry is always looking for ways to bring overall build costs down, so I’m not sure how viable this will be.
Intelligent glass will control light transmission through the glass automatically – it’s already being used in the automotive industry but it’s very expensive. Also computer systems integrated into glass – charts, maps, vessel statistics etc may become a reality.
Unmanned vessels are a hot topic at the moment, which could lead to ship windows becoming obsolete – a scary thought!
Who do you most admire in the world of business, who has inspired or influenced you?
My father is my mentor – he has a great ‘business’ head on his shoulders! I don’t believe we would be as successful as we are without his guidance and support.
Paul Pringle & Dale Parker, Marketing Manager
Which is your favourite superyacht and why?
I love the superyacht ‘Serene’ it has Italian elegance at its best! Stunning vessel, plus it has won awards.
Which three objects would you take to your desert island?
A 3D printer, a solar powered laptop and some flint.
What is your motto?
‘Treat others how you want to be treated’.
Solarglide Limited designs, manufactures and supplies screens, blinds, wipers, curtains and window films for the maritime sector. Our products are trusted worldwide by leading cruiseliner companies, superyacht owners and commercial vessel managers and operators. Solarglide s also the UK hub for Vecom Chemicals, offering just-in-time delivery to vessels operating and visiting UK and Irish shores.
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