Undeterred by economic downturn and a global pandemic, 2018 Gulf Capital award winner Ecocoast’s marine protection solutions business remains buoyant

Ecocoast’s mission is: “To solve the world’s most pressing marine problems and create a more pioneering marine industry.”

Founded in Dubai in 2009 by Dana Liparts and Lachlan Jackson, the innovative engineering company produces a portfolio of solutions that protect and support coastal development. Its commitment to sustainability impressed judges at the 2018 Gulf Capital SME awards, run in partnership with MEED, and Ecocoast was awarded both Business Innovation of the Year and Sustainable Business of the Year.

“Environmental, societal and governance (ESG) factors are now among the most important drivers of investment in the world,” says  says  Dr Karim El-Solh, CEO of Gulf Capital, one of the leading alternative investment firms in the Middle East and headline sponsor of the awards.

“Ecocoast has been focused on environmental sustainability in the region for over a decade. It is testament to the importance of its work that it was able to deliver outstanding growth, even during the pandemic.”

Green credentials

The UAE has become known for its ambitious coastal developments, but faced with the many technical and financial challenges posed by this type of project, developers in the region have often been slow to prioritise environmental considerations.

When the Ecocoast co-founders arrived in the UAE, they where struck by the lack of

low-impact, sustainable marine and coastal protection structures, and by the fact that contractors were not using anything to protect the marine environment during construction, reclamation or dredging activities.

“There was a lack of technical know-how and skills locally in this area,” says Jackson. “International marine manufacturers could not offer the quality, customisations or designs that would be effective in the Gulf environment. There was clearly a need for solutions that support and protect the marine environment.”

Since its inception, Ecocoast has gone from strength to strength. Even the Covid-19 pandemic did little to slow the company’s growth, and the year 2020 ended with group revenues up by 17 per cent compared to the previous year. Revenue in the first half of 2021 grew by 34 per cent year-on-year.

The firm has also launched two new brands: ‘Ecobarrier’, that initially focused on contractor barriers, such as silt curtains, and later diversified to include marine and coastal protection barriers; and ‘Ecomoor’ an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional mooring systems.

Global growth

In 2020, the local engineering firm acquired UK-based Bolina, the European leader in marine safety, security and environment booms for inland waterways, ports, dams and critical infrastructure.

“The Bolina acquisition enables us to offer an unmatched range of products within the environmental protection, demarcation, navigation, safety and security sectors,” says Jackson. “Similarly, the acquisition has given Bolina a platform to grow on a global scale, taking advantage in particular of Ecocoast’s expertise in coastal and marine environments.”

Manufacturing in the UAE has placed Ecocoast in the best position to further advance marine protection practices in the country as well as promote it to other parts of the Middle East and beyond.

The entrepreneur credits the UAE’s advanced infrastructure, established trading and logistics hubs, entrepreneur-friendly regulations, and ease of access to skilled workers and professionals, for enabling the business to scale up production and propagate solutions to clients across the world.

“The country’s commitment to industrial development is enabling us to thrive and enjoy numerous advantages that benefit our clients whether local, regional or international,” says Jackson.

Rewarding excellence

The Gulf Capital SME Awards is one of the biggest platforms in the region dedicated to celebrating entrepreneurs and SMEs’ achievements, and recognising their success, growth and innovation in business. Jackson says that it was an honour and pleasure to win these awards and be identified as an SME growth champion across the GCC region.

“We marketed the awards using an integrated marketing approach leveraging different channels to get our message across to specific audiences,” he says. “The awards helped a lot in raising awareness about our projects in the UAE and beyond.”

On 24 November, the Gulf Capital SME AWARDS 2021 held in partnership with MEED will recognise and celebrate the best small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UAE. The programme has attracted 1,922 total entries from 1,209 participating companies​, and has recognised 553 finalists​ and 350 winners​ across 17 categories​ with one unifying purpose – to accelerate and enable innovation in the economy’s most vital sector.