One of the main points of the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce’s Tours of Industry, is to see what companies are doing that go beyond the scope of a ‘local business’.
While most people see storefronts and commercial and industrial operations active on the Peninsula, there are businesses that serve an international clientele.
One of those was the final stop of the 2017 Tour, ASL Environmental Services in Saanichton. While most of their customers are based in B.C. (35 per cent), they create and deliver oceanography products and expertise across the country and around the world.
Tour members were given an inside look at ASL by a variety of their employees. Simply put, ASL is an oceanographic consulting company that manufactures and deploys equipment, collecting and measuring data. They have 40 years of experience analyzing information about ice thickness, sea life and temporal variations in the water and on land — just to name a few.
In the Arctic, for example, ASL has experience deploying acoustic water column profilers, which measure the thickness of ice. This work is one of their main priorities as a company and when it was incorporated in B.C. back in 1977, ice research was what it did. Most of its work was for government and oil companies, looking to collect data in the region.
Yet by the 1980s, a lot of the work dried up and ASL have to diversify, using their equipment, technology and expertise and applying it to a variety of other fields of study. By 1996, they’d also added a product division, manufacturing their own, specialized equipment for sale or lease.
Today, two-thirds of their revenue is in the export market. They say half of their customers are in Canada, but they admit they make more money as a company by working with out-of-country clients.
ASL has two main divisions of its Central Saanich-based operation. The first is consulting services. The development of Liquefied Natural Gas projects in the province has been lucrative for them, as they provide data on a variety of environmental conditions in the places where LNG companies have their eyes on.
The second is in remote sensing operations. ASL analyzes data collected from airborne or satellite sources, as well as from their own equipment. That gives ASL the ability to profile ice levels, fish and plankton populations and even profiling wave activity.
On land, ASL was involved with monitoring the reclamation efforts of portions of the Highland Valley copper mine in B.C.’s interior. By analyzing data gathered by aircraft, they’ve been able to tell where reclamation work has been successful and where it needs more work.
They’ve been so successful over the years that there are only two other companies, world-wide, who can compete with them.
ASL employs 38 people and has an annual payroll of more than $2.6 million.