Written by: Judith Lavoie

A Sidney company has received a loan of $1.8 million from the federal government to work on a high-tech project that will collect information through buoys and surveillance equipment in ports.

The "repayable investment" in AXYS Technologies, which comes from $200 million in federal funding for the Strategic Aerospace and Defence Initiative, was announced Wednesday.

The AXYS cash injection "builds on Canadian expertise in security technologies while helping the company to play a vital role in the growing security market," said Abbotsford MP Ed Fast, making the announcement for Industry Canada.

AXYS will work on research and development in partnership with the NEPTUNE Program at the University of Victoria and will be conducting work in Nanaimo, Prince Rupert, Sidney, Sooke and Victoria.

The technology, which will collect data on the environment and water quality as well as on vessel or people movements within a port or harbour, will tie together all the information and then relay it in real time to the customer through a communications system such as a satellite.

"Here at AXYS we see an under-serviced global market of over 1,000 ports that need this technology in order to better prepare themselves for the security challenges of today and tomorrow," said a company spokeswoman.

Information from buoys on waves, turbidity or salinity will enable port authorities to make timely decisions. At the same time, surveillance, using radar, sonar, satellites, hydrophones and cameras mounted on buoys, ports and harbours, will make authorities aware of what vessels are doing on the water.

The company started in 1974, conducting wave studies for Environment Canada. In the late 1980s AXYS designed, manufactured and installed Canada's Marine Weather Buoy Network.