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Acquisition provides local defense contractor with new tech

Mark Parker



Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg as seen from the Maritime and Defense Technology Hub's rooftop. Pole Star, one of the facility's anchor tenants and a prominent defense contractor, will now leverage an acquisition's commercial technology. Photo by Mark Parker.

St. Petersburg-based Pole Star Defense’s parent company, Pole Star Global, has acquired an award-winning voyage informatics platform to bolster ship monitoring, regulatory compliance and performance analytics efforts.

Pole Star is an anchor tenant at the Innovation District’s Maritime and Defense Technology Hub. CIO Review, a prominent national technology magazine, recently named the company its 2023 Most Promising Defense Tech Solutions Provider.

London-based Pole Star Global announced Oct. 16 that it added the StratumFive Group to the company’s portfolio. Ben Minichino, president of Pole Star Defense, called the acquisition of another maritime tech leader “a big one.”

“It was probably our largest competitor,” Minichino added. “Our guys were constantly coming up against the StratumFive product as they were doing their job around the world.”

Terms of the deal remain undisclosed. Minichino expected an Oct. 13 announcement but said, “Transferring money across continents was slower than expected.”

A critical aspect of the acquisition is incorporating StartumFive’s Podium 5 platform into Pole Star’s array of tech offerings. Company officials believe it will enhance tracking capabilities and accelerate efforts to monitor and reduce ship emissions transparently.

Pole Star’s defense-focused local office is a prominent U.S. Coast Guard contractor. According to its website, staff develop and implement innovative tech solutions “to protect our customers’ vessels, people, maritime domain and reputation.”

Minichino said Pole Star’s leadership saw “a really great fit” and “a lot of synergies” between the two companies as they performed their due diligence. “It just made total sense,” he said.

He also believes his St. Petersburg team will discover new ways to deploy the commercial product into the defense space. Minichino said the U.S. Navy announced its desire for automated maritime software that monitors vessel efficiency and carbon emissions the weekend before the acquisition went public.

Pole Star will submit a proposal in early November. “We just had the deal – the ink is still wet, right?” Minichino said.

“And we’re already expanding what we look for as potential target customers and businesses,” he added. “The Navy is looking for that kind of tech, and we’re going to be able to respond as a U.S. company leveraging the tech that we just acquired from StratumFive.”

Ben Minichino, president of Pole Star Defense, at an Innovation District event on the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus in January.

StratumFive’s Podium 5 platform organizes massive amounts of global shipping data to make maritime operations more effective, safe and efficient. The United Kingdom-based company also owns FleetWeather, a continuously operating meteorological center in Fishkill, New York.

“More than 25 years ago, we (Pole Star) had the very first web-based vessel tracking operation available to commercial shipping companies,” Minichino said. “But we kind of shifted focus over the decades.

“It’s cool to see the company coming full circle … but at the same time, leveraging new, good tech that I know will serve us well in the future.”

Minichino explained that Pole Star has three primary verticals. The first is financial technology and regulatory compliance, served by its Purple TRAC platform that was “well-received” by government agencies and global banks.

The second is the defense space, and the last is commercial shipping and offshore operations. Minichino said those operations have evolved over the past 25 years and now include monitoring low-sulfur fuel consumption and carbon emissions.

“We were looking to develop products and solutions to address those concerns,” he said. “Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel … we saw their (StratumFive) technologies just being really outstanding.”

He said Pole Star’s leadership realized the Podium5 platform would seamlessly integrate into their three verticals. Minichino said the new, combined maritime solution suite would benefit both companies’ customers.

Pole Star embraces collaboration and frequently partners with fellow hub tenant PVM, a data analytics firm founded by St. Pete native Pat Mack. Minichino said he looks for potential synergies to offer “end-to-end” solutions for customers.

Conversely, he said defense officials want the best value for preeminent technology that aids the modern warfighter. Minichino believes the acquisition will help achieve those and Pole Star’s commercial goals.

“It’s just a good day,” he said. “Everybody is excited about it.”


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