Our Strong History in Maritime Aids to Navigation Innovations

Pharos Marine Automatic Power, Inc. has provided products for some of the most famous navigation projects around the world, including the first oil rigs off the coast of Texas and the first buoys for the Panama Canal. Today PMAPI operates worldwide from offices in the United States, United Kingdom, and Singapore.

Our name has evolved over the past century and the following illustrates the changes and innovations that have made this group the leading supplier that it is today.
Our goal has always been to invent new products, use the latest technology, invest in manufacturing facilities, and achieve the highest possible standards.

Please navigate the timeline to review over 100 years of accomplishment and innovative solutions from PMAPI in the field of Maritime Aids to Navigation.

  • 1904

    Aktiebolaget Gasaccumulator Company (AGA)

    AGA's origins date back to 1904 and are based on the technically ingenious inventions of one man — Gustaf Dalen — who was not only one of Sweden's most important Nobel Laureates but also the only laureate to create an industrial group.

    The AGA industrial company (Aktiebolaget Gasaccumulator Company) was founded to focus mainly on acetylene gas for railway signaling. Soon the company employed Gustaf Dalen as chief engineer and workshop manager where his inventions enabled AGA to grow rapidly. It was the company's inventions with lighthouse technology, the flashing beacon in 1905 and the sun valve in 1907, which were to dictate the company's future. In 1906 Gustaf Dalen became chief engineer at the Gas Accumulator Company; AGA was one of the most innovative companies in Sweden and produced a large variety of products that grew every year.

    The 'Dalen Flasher' reduced gas consumption by more than 90%. The AGA lighthouse equipment worked without any type of electric supply and was thus extremely reliable.

  • 1909

    Gustaf Dalen as AGA Managing Director

     

    In 1909 Gustaf Dalen ascended to the position of Managing Director of the renamed company Svenska Aktiebolaget Gasaccumulator (AGA). AGA developed lighthouses using Dalen's products. In 1910 the company bought a large real estate in Lidingö and built a production plant that was completed around 1912, and they moved out of the facilities in Stockholm.

  • 1912

    Minutes Before the Disaster — Gustaf Dalen's Accident

    Early in 1912, Dalen was testing maximum pressure for the acetylene cylinders when a cylinder exploded, seriously injuring Dalen and destroying his sight. This picture depicts the test minutes before the accident (Dalen is on the right foreground). Later the same year, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics. Despite his blindness, Dalen controlled AGA until his death in 1937. He received over 100 patents during his lifetime.

    Gustaf Dalen received the Nobel Prize in physics, for his invention of the sun valve (Swedish: solventil, "solar valve"), a device that, except for a small pilot light, only released gas during the flash stage to the acetylene flasher. This device used the same principle applied on today's electric systems as photocells.

  • 1913

    Gas Accumulator Company (United Kingdom) Ltd (later Pharos Marine) is founded.

     

    Named after the famous lighthouse that stood on the Isle of Pharos in Alexandria, Egypt, Pharos Marine began making aids to navigation more than 100 years ago.

    AGA (America Gas Accumulator Company, later Pharos Marine) provided the first 17 light buoys with 300 mm acetylene gas lanterns for the ISHTMAN CANAL COMISSION - Panama Canal

  • 1928

    The revolutionary Lampchanger

    The first electrical light source was made practical by the innovation of the Lampchanger, Wallace & Tiernan, models FA-147 and FA-148.

    Charles F. Wallace Founder of "Wallace & Tiernan" and inventor developed and patented this first Lampchanger in 1928. This patent established the Wallace and Tiernan Company as the pioneer in the electrification of aids to navigation lighting. Pharos Marine Automatic Power Inc. are heirs to this Wallace and Tiernan Company legacy.

    Automatic Power traces its roots to Charles Wallace's original 1928 Lampchanger patent. Wallace's Lampchanger consisted of a rotating carriage holding a Model T headlight lamp at the focal point of an optic. When the operating lamp failed, a new lamp automatically rotated into the operating position.

  • 1938

    First electro mechanical Lampchanger

     

    FU-1247 (later redesigned and renamed APL-1297) by Wallace & Tiernan, The first electro mechanical Lampchanger to be used in combination with electrical flashers, FU-1297 units were produced starting in 1938 with 5 to 16 Volts AC or DC operation. Typically this unit was used on Wallace & Tiernan 150mm, 200mm and 300mm lanterns.

  • 1947

    Light House Inc. (later Automatic Power Inc.) is founded

    Nathan "Available" Jones, founder and owner of The Light House Inc., Buoys Inc. and The Lighthouse of LA. Inc., was nicknamed "Available" because he never refused to take a sales call, and always answered customers with something like "yes we could do that, not a problem".

    First Lighting Offshore Drilling Rig in the Gulf

    The first commercial offshore oil rig began drilling in 1947 18 miles off the coast of Louisiana, in the Gulf of Mexico, near St. Mary Parish, LA in just 18 feet (5.5 meters) of water. Light House Inc. supplied four 5-nautical mile lanterns and one and half mile fog horn for this first oil rig. This Gulf of Mexico project became the first platform lighting system.

  • 1949

    The first 2-mile fog signal is implemented in Gulf of Mexico

     

    Nathan "Available" Jones (founder of The Light House Inc., Buoys Inc. and The Lighthouse of La. Inc.) along with his neighbor Hueling Parker, working in Hueling's garage, designed and built a control panel for the first prototype Model M-18 dual diesel air 2mile fog signal. This unit was 8ft wide, 10ft long, and 8ft tall; it weighed about 4 tons loaded. It contained 2 Buda 2-cylinder diesel engines, driving a 30 cfm Ingersol air compressor, with an internal 360 gallon fuel tank, automatic oil filling and water filling system, air receiver and a quad set of Cunningham. Air whistles (Leslie?s horns) were mounted on top of the roof of the building.

  • 1959

    First Wind Generator on the Gulf of Mexico

     

    In 1959 Automatic Power installed a 4.7kw wind generator on a Conoco Platform off Grand Isle, LA.

    It was rated at 4.7kw 120 volts DC. Also installed was a 120Vdc 500 ampere hour battery standby system as well as a 3 cylinder Nordberg Diesel engine with a 20KW 120 volt DC generator.

    The wind generator was made in Germany and had 40 foot diameter metal blades with automatic positioning for wind orientation and over speed/high wind shutdown protection.

    Conoco used the energy to power the aids to navigation, the cathodic corrosion protection system for the platform, power for the well control, and a temporary quarters building used if personnel had to be on the platform overnight.

  • 1960

    The first precision molded acrylic lenses

     

    Precision molded acrylic lenses were developed to take advantage of the same Fresnel principle used on the glass lenses. These lenses are now used with the 155mm lanterns for buoy and beacon applications with electrical Lampchangers.

  • 1965

    Gas Accumulator Company name chnage

     

    Gas Accumulator Company (United Kingdom) Ltd. becomes AGA Signals Ltd.

  • 1966

    Company expanded to 5 separate entities throughout the world

     

    In that year, Automatic Power Inc. merged with Wallace & Tiernan. A subsequent merger of Wallace & Tiernan and Penn Salt Company formed the Pennwalt Corporation, making Automatic Power a division of the larger group.

  • 1969

    AGA Signals Ltd. becomes AGA (UK) Ltd.

     

  • 1975

    APL1297, Stepper Motor Controlled Lampchanger

     

    This was the first electric stepper motor controlled Lampchanger and Lampchanger/flasher combined on a single frame. Our APL1297 Lampchanger, is still in use today.

  • 1976

    Custom design solution for the oil and gas industry in the British North Sea

     

    Wallace & Tiernan introduced the HALS 15 ? (Hazardous Area Lighting for 15 nautical miles) a development to achieve a 15 NM light specifically for the oil and gas industry in the British North Sea. This system consisted of 250mm Marine Lanterns, type FA-250, mounted vertically in a bi-form arrangement on a fully galvanized steel structure, an optional 10 nautical mile standby lantern could be also included.

  • 1977

    First tensioned-moored buoy in the U.S.

     

    PMAPI provided the first tensioned moored buoy for one of the turning basins for the port of Miami, FL. .

  • 1978

    First radio synchronization of lights

     

    The group of engineers based in Houston developed the first "wireless" synchronization system using radio frequency signal to synchronize different buoy lanterns. Now mariners were getting a clearer and synchronized signal for all the channel buoys flashing together.

  • 1979

    AGA (UK) Ltd. becomes AGA Navigation Aids Ltd.

     

  • 1982

    First "Made in Houston" Fog Horn, DA-8

     

    The DA-8 was the first electric Fog Horn totally designed and manufactured in our offices in Houston; this horn served the Oil and Gas businesses of the Gulf of Mexico and several worldwide projects for more than 25 years. The DA-8 was a proven, reliable sound emitter for use on offshore platforms. The horn was designed at an optimum frequency to maximize its range rating for both U. S. Coast Guard and IALA criteria. Eight emitters were stacked in a vertical array on a marine grade aluminum or, optionally, stainless steel support structure. The tower base included a hinge to facilitate lowering of the tower.

  • 1984/1985

    1984/1985 AGA Navigation Aids Ltd. Becomes AB Pharos Marine Ltd.

     

    The diversified AGA group was split into new operating companies and the marine aids to navigation manufacturing company was named Pharos Marine after the famous wonder of the world on the isle of Pharos at Alexandria, Egypt.

  • 1989

    Reaching leading industry levels

     

    In 1989, Automatic Power, Inc. merged with Pharos Marine, making the combined group a world leader in the field.

  • 1995

    First integrated electric Lampchanger and Flasher in one unit, APCL series Flashchanger ®

     

    This unit was controlled by a Motorola microprocessor and was the first unit that integrated the functionality of a Lampchanger and a flasher.

  • 1996

    GPS Buoy Location System / First GPS synchronization of lights

     

    First GPS buoy location system located on the Gulf of Mexico; this was the 2nd generation of the wireless synchronization system for buoys, denominated Uniflash. This system based its operation on the signal received from the GPS satellites.

  • 1997

    Pharos Marine Automatic Power (UK) developed the Pharomac system, a lighthouse remote monitoring system

     

    Pharomac-2000 allowed the monitoring and control of an effectively unlimited number of independent outstations from 1 or more base stations via UHF and VHF radio links, telephone landlines, cellular, satellite & dedicated cables.

  • 1998

    Lighthouse towers in the Philippines

     

    Pharos Marine Automatic Power (UK) participated in the equipment and installation process of 110 GRP lighthouse towers in the Philippines. The towers were designed to withstand Typhoon winds in excess of 100mph; most of them also incorporated the "Meteor Burst" communication technology to do the remote monitoring of the electrical equipment on the lighthouses.

  • 2000

    First Retrofit of LEDs to Classic Optics

     

    Retrofit LEDs were developed to fit inside our regular lanterns, replacing old generation incandescent lampchanger and Flashchanger, while keeping exactly the same focal height. It's an easy unit to retrofit existing lanterns in the field with state-of-the-art LED flasher.

  • 2006

    IEC compliant Automatic Identification System (AIS) Aton Transponder and iNAV AIS Aton Monitoring Software

     

    First IEC-62320-2 compliant Type 1 (FATDMA) and 3 (RATDMA) AIS Aton Transponder. ATONIS was a unique, state-of-the-art, modular, Aids to Navigation Information System designed to operate seamlessly in an AIS VDL environment using FATDMA and RATDMA protocols. It was the first AIS AtoN transponder designed to be fully compliant with the governing directives for AIS AtoN transponders; ITU-R M.1371 and IEC Standard 62320-2. It was scaled to fit within a standard 155mm lantern housing, but could also be mounted in an external enclosure, suitable for use on buoys and offshore platforms.

    iNAV was the first AIS Aton monitoring software designed exclusively for both AIS and conventional Aton monitoring and features many monitoring functions unique to the AIS system.

  • 2007

    Extreme Length LED Litepipes & Solar powered system

     

    First use of extreme length LED Litepipes, exceeding 35 feet in length, and the first solar powered system for a Bridge project on the East Coast.

  • 2008

    Heatpipe Technology

     

    First use of PMAPI's patented heat pipe technology for cooling of marine lantern LEDs.

  • 2009

    The Toxaway Capital Partners Group

    Pharos Marine Ltd., Automatic Power Inc. and Sims Systems Ltd. became part of the Toxaway Capital Partners Group.

    TCP also carries TWR Lighting, Inc. as part of its portfolio. TCP was formed by individuals with extensive experience in private equity investing.

    AtonisPro AIS Aton Transponder & iNAVPro AIS Analysis Software

    AtonisPro was the first A-126 compliant AIS Aton Transponder and added many new features in addition to the functions of the successful Atonis. iNAVPro was the first AIS VDL and AIS Transmitter performance analyzing software program, giving AIS Authorities a very capable tool to analyze and monitor the AIS VDL.

  • 2010

    Pharos Marine Automatic Power name change

     

    Pharos Marine Automatic Power becomes member of RTCM, Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services.

  • 2012

    PMAPI - The New Era

     

    The entire group (Pharos Marine Ltd., Automatic Power Inc. and Sims Systems Ltd.) are now under one integrated name, "Pharos Marine Automatic Power Inc." and are working as one global company. PMAPI adopted the tag line of "Global Quality, Global Solutions."

    On July of this year PMAPI moved Management, Procurement, Sales, Engineering and Production operations for the entire group into a new 67,000 SQF facility located at 10810 W. Little York, Suite 130, Houston, TX 77041.

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