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2010/06/19 - Trenton manufacturer shines a little light on Gulf oil spill response

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Trenton manufacturer shines a little light on Gulf oil spill response
Published: Jun. 19, 2010, 4:23 p.m.

TRENTON - Scott Mele was at an airport in South Jersey, filming a promotional video about the runway lighting his company manufactures, when he got a call.

An emergency response contractor working to fight the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster wanted his company, Tektite Industries, to send one of their Mark III strobe lights by overnight mail.

The contractor needed thousands of lights for the oil booms that are protecting hundreds of miles of coastline from the massive oil leak, said Mele, Tektite's president.

The Coast Guard normally uses a different kind of light, but it was much more expensive than Tektite's $30 model.

"When you're talking about tens or hundreds of thousands of them, it gets very pricey to spend $100 on a light," Mele said yesterday. "They said, "We want to use these.'"

The North Clinton Avenue company ended up getting an opening order for 5,000 of the 10-inch long LED strobes, and the contractor is expecting to order "tens of thousands more," he said. They're even ramping up hiring to help get job done.

"It's very good news," Mele said. "We were having a good year to begin with, and this is just icing on the cake."

The 20-year-old Tektite makes over 100 kinds of lights, including energy-sipping LEDs, xenon lights, and xenon and halogen flashlights, all battery-powered, he said. The Mark III, a submersible strobe that flashes twice a second, is typically used by scuba divers as a taillight to keep track of each other during dives.

In the Gulf, however, the lights will be wire-tied to booms and boom poles to help boats detect and avoid them, Mele said.

"Apparently one of the problems with laying miles and miles of oil skimmer booms is that you can't see them at night," he said. "People run them over with their boat and they can get twisted up in the propellers."

In addition to being relatively inexpensive, the Mark III's three AA batteries last two weeks before needing to be replaced, reducing the work load for the Coast Guard's contractors.

Tektite has ramped up production in the expectation it could get orders for 20,000 or 30,000 of the lights. It's given its workers more hours and is looking for new hires.

"We've added a second shift, and depending on the numbers we'll probably be running that shift at least through the next month or two," Mele said. "Everybody in here is working overtime right now. We tell them, "Make hay while the sun shines.'"

The small light is just one of many different kinds of equipment that are being designed or adapted by the government agencies and companies responding to the disaster.

"They're sourcing stuff from all over the world," Mele said. "They've been calling people from companies that you never would think would apply to the oil industry."

Contact Meir Rinde at [email protected].


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