Most boaties would know Electronic Navigation (ENL) as the company that sells Furuno and Lowrance electronics from their large, brightly coloured base in Westhaven.

Older mariners, especially those with an interest in fishing, might also remember them as the company behind the Furuno Fishing Competition, based initially on Motuihe and then on Kawau.

What many don't realise is that ENL, a privately owned company founded in 1946, is also a creator and manufacturer of marine electronic systems, especially those targeted at the commercial fishing industry.

Their latest offering, the Wide Angle Sonar Seafloor Profiler (Wassp) is proving so successful that it has attracted the attention of the giant Furuno Electric. Furuno has agreed to distribute Wassp internationally.

The agreement means Wassp will now be available in countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, United States, China, Spain, South Korea and Japan.

The partnership with Furuno is a positive step, says ENL's new chief executive, Gareth Hodson.

"Having Wassp distributed into these key markets by Furuno will see a significant increase in sales," he says.

"Furuno has a stronghold on the commercial fishing market and this will prove a great way to expose Wassp to their customers."

Designed and manufactured at ENL's headquarters in Westhaven, Auckland, Wassp has been exported globally since 2006 and more than 250 units have been sold.

So what is this new Waasp technology and why is it so highly rated? Put simply, Wassp allows commercial fishing boats to map the seafloor and see more information in the water column, thanks largely to its wide sonar coverage.

As Hodson explains, the Wassp multibeam sonar accurately profiles the water column and seafloor, highlighting reefs, wrecks, fish schools, changes in seafloor hardness and foreign objects.

This information is then presented in user-friendly displays, all controlled by a mouse and stored on a hard drive. "The primary objective of the Wassp Multibeam Sonar is to enhance the skipper's knowledge of his fishing environment, leading to improved catch rates, reduced gear damage and more productive sea time," says Hodson.

"It's all designed, developed and manufactured here in New Zealand by our extensive R&D team who specialise in acoustic technology."

Hodson says the expected quadrupling of Wassp sales as a result of the Furuno partnership will see ENL recruiting more specialised staff at their Westhaven head office to meet the demand in production.

The partnership is also beneficial to Furuno, according to the company's senior managing director and divisional general manager, marine electronics product division, Hiroyuki Mori.

"Not only [does ENL] distribute world-class electronics products on a professional level but they have a brilliant understanding of what the market needs.

"We consider the synergy of marketing Wassp alongside our Furuno product to be beneficial to both companies and believe that it will be a complementary combination."

In March Furuno got a good look at just how superior Wassp can be when ENL trialled a unit on a purse seiner in Japan. According to Hodson, it was the best season ever experienced by the vessel's skipper who saw a significant increase in its catch.

For Hodson and ENL, the partnership is already paying dividends: Furuno recently handed them the single largest order in the history of Wassp.

Deal great start for CEO

The new strategic partnership with Furuno is proving to be a great way for the company's new chief executive officer to make his mark.

Gareth Hodson was appointed ENL's CEO in December, just a month before the deal with Furuno was announced.

Hodson is a 20-year veteran with the company and was its general manager of New Zealand sales and service.

He started with ENL in 1991 as an apprentice, going on to become a fully qualified marine electronics technician.

This saw him install and service onboard marine electronic systems such as radar, echo sounders, SSBs, VHFs, GPS and satellite communications systems.

In 1994, Hodson was the production manger and field technician for the company's Netlink deep-sea acoustic technology, which is now used globally by commercial fisherman.

After a stint playing rugby in Wales, Hodson returned to New Zealand in 1996 to take on a role with Westhaven-based marine electronics retailer Navstation.

In 1997 he rejoined ENL as commercial product manager, developing relationships with overseas suppliers and local commercial dealers, and was responsible for the pricing, branding and marketing of products.

In 2008 he moved into the role of general manager.

Hodson has also served on the board of New Zealand Marine Export for the past three years.