The “heaviest” part of heavy industry occurs when the environment eats away at critical equipment, forcing it ultimately to be shelved. For operators and engineers of offshore oil and gas platforms, deep-sea vessels, tankers and cruise liners, the natural process of corrosion represents one of the most significant operational threats to profitability. Infrastructure, too, is at risk as heat, cold and storms punish bridges, power plants, stadiums and chemical plants.
Enter International Paint Inc. (IP) with its International® brand of products, developed to help these structures and equipment resist the pounding from the elements. Part of Akzo Nobel, the global pharmaceuticals, coatings and specialty chemicals giant, IP has become the world’s leading manufacturer of marine, yacht and protective coatings.
IP’s high-performance coatings work well in single-step, resin-rich applications. They are highly resistant to caustics, most concentrated acids and solvents; are highly flexible; and provide excellent adhesion on damp surfaces. “We make the coatings that protect and extend the life of seafaring vessels and inland facilities,” says A.B. Ghosh, IP’s Chief Executive Officer for Marine and Protective Coatings in North, South and Central America. “Our name is big around the world in high-performance coatings and our international reach is large. Currently, the worldwide market in heavy industry coatings is about $4.5 billion and we are the worldwide market leader.”
The quality of IP’s coatings has been central to its standing in these markets, but so has the company’s heritage, Ghosh says. International Paint actually began in 1881 in England where, during the transition from wood to steel ships, Max and Albert Holzapfel and Charles Petrie founded M. Holzapfel and Company. The company sold products under the names “Holzapfel’s International Compositions” and “Holzapfel’s American Composition Company.” By 1896, Holzapfel’s International Compositions was the world’s largest manufacturer of marine paints, a position International Paint maintains today. Holzapfel’s first U.S. location was a small plant built in 1898 in Brooklyn, N.Y., to support marine work on the East Coast. In 1901, Holzapfel’s American Composition Company (now called International Paint Company, Inc.) was registered in New Jersey and a newer, larger plant was built. In the 1930s, the Yacht Coatings Division of International Paint was established, and it rapidly rose to become the No. 1 supplier of yacht paints under the International® and Interlux® brand names, a position it still enjoys today.
What has set International Paint apart throughout its history, and continues to do so today, is its pioneering spirit. IP has always taken pride in the fact that it personally develops and manufactures all of its products. Its research and development department is on a continuous mission to push back the frontiers of coatings technology.
Of equal importance to IP is that its products do not damage the ecosystem. “We’re developing more environmentally friendly products, as the regulations on VOC emissions are strengthened,” says Ghosh. The development of Intersleek®, a revolutionary coating system to control fouling (the buildup of marine organisms on a ship’s underwater hull) and which contains no biocides, demonstrates IP’s dedication to protecting the world’s delicate environmental balance. So does IP’s Intersmooth® Ecoloflex SPC, another new anti-foulant that has broken the industry mold in this category by being tin-free. IP developed Ecoloflex in anticipation of the International Maritime Organization’s ban on tin in coatings because of its effect on marine life.
International Paint’s quality orientation has benefited an impressive list of customers such as Shell, Dow Chemical and Chevron. The company has also earned the trust and respect of the world’s navies; IP’s products are used on aircraft carriers, guided missile cruisers, frigates and destroyers, submarines and amphibious warfare ships. Major sports stadiums in Philadelphia and Detroit also enjoy the protection of International® products — as do airports, commercial buildings and bridges.
International Paint Inc. is part of Akzo Nobel’s worldwide Marine and Protective Coatings Business Unit, which is based in London. Its 23 worldwide manufacturing facilities include two in the United States (Houston and Union, N.J.), which employ about 370 people. In Houston, the company has just finished a $17 million, four-year plant expansion that has made the manufacturing area “truly a state-of-the-art facility,” Ghosh says.
But producing the coatings is only a part of what IP offers to customers. Company personnel work with customers to produce drawings specifying application procedures from critical areas such as trenches, drains, pipes, metal legs and covers. The staff also makes recommendations on how to best coordinate the specifications with the actual topping.
“Our staff provides essentially customer-focused solutions for the protection of the customer’s assets from the new construction phase throughout the life of the asset,” Ghosh says. “Our Web-based technologies, including customer-specific Extranets, provide more than just paint to our customers. Our field service representatives are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week for on-site consultation and guidance. We also provide customers with lists of skilled applicators for the coatings and conduct training seminars to instruct potential new applicators on proper installation techniques. We also create a five-year maintenance plan for upgrading older facilities.”
At this time, IP’s best-selling products are marine coatings for seafaring vessels. Ghosh notes, “We make the anti-foulants used on the bottoms of these boats, which stop organisms from attaching themselves to these vessels and slowing them down. We also make the paint used on the topsides of these vessels. This line includes the primer, intermediate coat and finishing coat. The Interlux® line of coatings for yachts has made us the No. 1 name for yacht coatings in the U.S.”
IP offers an extensive range of high-performance coatings, which include zinc primers, epoxy coatings and polyurethane finishes, all of which are used in a variety of industries. “Our business is split 50-50 between marine and onshore,” says Ghosh.
Geographically, the company is focusing its future growth plans on the United States. “Our name recognition around the world is bigger than it is here, based on the company’s heritage,” Ghosh says. “But the U.S. coatings market alone is about $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion, so it’s very important to us. We’re going after customers for inland applications, which is a fragmented market right now.” New product development will play just as crucial a role in the U.S. effort as it always has in the overall IP business strategy. “We’re developing new and better coatings for the petrochemical and power industries and for bridges and other types of structures,” says Ghosh.
He adds that acquisitions will boost IP’s growth down the road, especially involving companies that can bring specialized technologies for certain markets to the line. IP obtained just such a company with the 1999 acquisition of the Chartek® fire-protection coatings business. IP now has the technology proven to reduce the risk of structural collapse under the extreme high temperatures of hydrocarbon fires in oil and gas, refining and chemical processing operations.
“When we feel that a company has a good brand and good technology, we will try to add that product to the portfolio, further expanding the solutions we can offer our customers,” Ghosh says. Regardless of the application, International Paint operates with an unyielding dedication to creating the most innovative solutions for the long-term protection of assets.