Company News

Fernstrum Celebrates 75-Year Legacy Of Constant Improvement

“We have a cooler from 1953 that one of our customers sent back to us to have its tubes slightly straightened,” Sean Fernstrum, CEO of R. W. Fernstrum & Company, recently told The Waterways Journal. “We told him, ‘We’ll do you one better, we’ll give you a new cooler so we can keep this one and study it.’” It still operated fine once the tubes were straightened, said Fernstrum, and the company still studies its older designs to learn from them.

That’s just part of the mission of continuous self-improvement that has kept Fernstrum in the forefront of cooling technology marine equipment suppliers for 75 years. Founder Robert W. Fernstrum, Sean‘s grandfather, patented the first rectangular tube keel cooler with an angled header for the United States Army and Navy. The company was founded in 1944, although not incorporated until 1949.

The company has been engineering and manufacturing its signature Gridcooler keel coolers for the marine industry since 1949. Today, the company’s products are used for cooling marine propulsion engines, generator sets, reduction gears and auxiliary systems on board vessels of all sizes worldwide. Each solution is custom engineered to meet the requirements of each engine, vessel and set of operating conditions.

In 1997, Fernstrum & Company partnered with WEKA Marine B.V., a Dutch company, to manufacture and sell copper-nickel boxcoolers for North and South America. The WEKA Boxcooler is a compact, closed circuit cooling system mounted within the confines of the ship’s hull.

Fernstrum’s most recent innovation, introduced at the Workboat show in December, is a heat exchanger with an enhanced tube size, the Series E. The new tube size allowed each exchanger to have fewer tubes. The new design was developed over a period of two years to meet stricter emissions regulations that required lower temperatures.

“When you bring the temperature down, you need a bigger exchanger,” Fernstrum said. “We looked at tube sizes and found the sweet spot.” Fernstrum is the only supplier to provide this particular tube size.

That innovation, in turn, was enabled by an earlier Fernstrum innovation it pioneered back in the 1990s—an exclusive inner coating in each tube that increased heat efficiency by 30 percent. “That had a lot to do with how we were able to develop this exchanger,” Fernstrum said.

Fernstrum was founded by Sean’s grandfather, who was later joined by his father and uncle. Sean and his brother later joined, and now two of Sean’s three children are with the company, making up the fourth generation. Today, it is a global organization with representatives in 24 countries.