Page 37: of Maritime Reporter Magazine (January 2014)
Ship Repair & Conversion Edition
The Mother of Invention
Plato said it and Robert W. Fernstrum proved it, leading to the creation of R.W. Fernstrum & Company, a ubiqui- tous name in commercial maritime circles.
Necessity is indeed the mother of invention, a point proven time and again throughout history. For better or worse, war historically has proven the impetus for in- vention, as was the case with Robert W. Fernstrum.
R.W. Fernstrum & Company of Menominee, Mich., is a leader in engineering and manufacturing keel cooling technologies, and today remains a privately held, third- generation company run by brothers Sean and Todd
Fernstrum, grandsons of founder Robert W. Fernstrum.
The company came to fruition in 1945 when Rob- ert W. Fernstrum patented the fi rst rectangular tube keel cooler with an angled header for the United
States Army and Navy.
As Sean Fernstrum, President, explained, during World
War II the U.S. Navy encountered engine cooling prob- lems with its landing craft (pictured above) – a problem discovered during a mock invasion off of Iceland—and required a new closed circuit cooling system. “As WWII started, Gray Marine was building landing craft for the Army. When the Army conducted a mock as- sault of Iceland, less than half of the landing craft made it to shore,” said Sean Fernstrum. “The ice plugged up all of the strainers and it became a nightmare. So the
Army went back to Grey Marine and said ‘you’ve got a problem.’ And (the management of Gray Marine) went to its Chief Engineer, my grandfather, and said ‘you’ve got a problem!’ Out of that problem he ended up design- ing the prototype of our keel coolers.”
So the fi rst real use of the R.W. Fernstrum coolers was on a landing craft, which didn’t actually occur until the conclusion of WWII, but are found on military landing craft from the Korean confl ict onward. The company of- fi cially got its start in 1949, and expanded its references to include the Army Corps of Engineers then shrimp boats, and today includes a wide variety of commercial craft globally. In 2014 R.W. Fernstrum celebrates its 65 anniversary.
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