Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
Symbol of the Government of Canada
Mapping success
 Dr. Salem Masry, CARIS President and CEO
Dr. Salem Masry, CARIS President and CEO

Maps are as crucial for waterways as they are for roadways, helping navies plan missions and mariners navigate safely.

And for the last 30 years, a Fredericton-based company has given - ocean surveyors around the world the tools they need to better map and understand their coastlines.

It all started in 1979, when UNB scholar and company founder Dr. Salem Masry began creating computer software to convert electronic data from the ocean floor into readable charts.

The popularity of the new software, known as CARIS — Computer Aided Resource Information System — grew by word of mouth and was soon picked up by the Canadian Hydrographic Service and similar agencies from coastal countries around the world to help them map their national coastlines. 

Today, the navies of Canada, Britain, India, Australia and Brazil are all CARIS fans as well as commercial surveyors working on behalf of oil and gas companies.

According to the company’s manager of sales and marketing, Andrew Hoggarth, marine maps are created by using electronic sensors that fire a sound pulse into the water.

Distance is then calculated using the time it takes for the sound to get to the bottom and back. 

“We call it the ping,” explains Andrew.

“CARIS software takes thousands of these pulses and turns them into the charts mariners need to navigate.”

Currently, over 160 employees work for CARIS, including personnel at branch locations in the Netherlands, the US and Australia.

Meanwhile, Caris hasn’t forgotten its roots in the educational sector: its Academic Partnering Program offers educational tools to learning institutes in over 30 countries.  And many CARIS service representatives are former students who benefitted from this partnering program.

“It’s one of the reasons we’ve been so successful. Our software is highly sophisticated, used by engineers and scientists,” he says. “So this experience helps them answer complex questions.”

According to Andrew, ACOA has helped CARIS throughout the years, supporting an employee recruitment program as well as business missions abroad to help them explore new growth.

“ACOA has given us visibility and traction, and the potential to win contracts in new markets.”

As for the future, Andrew says the company is looking to expand into the developing world as potential grows around local environmental protection and economic growth.

“Nicaragua, for example, used to be a place of civil war. Now it’s peaceful and is interested in developing ecotourism, ports and cargo.”

With its finger on the pulse of new markets and methods, CARIS is clearly one company that has its future mapped out from ping to chart.

Published March 23, 2012