Burlington corporation described as having innovation in their DNA gets an important government contract.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

May 8th, 2017



As a photo-op and the announcement of a federal government grant for some innovative work it wasn’t that big a deal – the cheque was for less than half a million, given to a company that has been around for 106 years and has 113 employees doing business in 100 countries.

Gould at Thordon

Burlington MP and Minister of democratic Institutions Karina Gould announcing federal grant for Thordon Bearings.

What was important, and big news, was the story of the way the federal government puts small amounts of money into initiatives and then works closely with the company that got the cheque to then sell the product.

Thordon Bearing sells more than 95% of what they make into the export market. In order to sell a product they have to be able to show it to people.

Thordon_CEO_and_Chair_with_Minister_Gould + bearing

From the left: Thordon chair Anna Galoni, Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould and Terry McGowan, President and Chief Executive Officer, Thordon Bearings Inc. with one of the bearings.

In this instance what the federal government did was purchase one of the bearings for the Canadian Coast Guard ship Hudson and then work with them to line up sales elsewhere in the world. A lot of the selling is government to government – especially when navies are involved.

The Thordon Bearing area of expertise is working with polymers that are used as bearings in propeller shafts for large ships. The polymer bearings are basically maintenance free and keep oil out of the ocean waters.

What is big about the deal is what it is going to make possible.

Terry McGowan, president at Thordon explained that when products are being sold to large foreign corporations or navy’s one of the first questions we get asked is – are you selling your products to your own government and is the navy in your country using your products.

A seal inserted around the propeller of a ship isn’t the kind of thing you can show a client. The things are huge and in order to see the seal the ship has to be berthed in a dry dock.

The federal government has a program they call Build Canada Innovation Program (BCIP) that does help fund some innovations but the big help they give is their ability to make introductions.

The Government of Canada has signed a procurement agreement with Thordon Bearings for the supply, installation and commissioning of two SeaThigor shaft seals for the Canadian Coast Guard vessel CCGS Hudson.

Thordon CCGS Hudson

CCGS Hudson

This newest seal is going to be installed on CCGS Hudson, at the Heddie dry-dock in Hamilton.

What this seal does is two part – it keep water from getting into a ship through the propeller shaft and lubricates the shaft with sea water instead of oil – thereby keeping thousands of litres of oil out of the ocean water.

The seal needs no maintenance – which means ships don’t have to be taken into a dry dock for maintenance work.  That is critical for the profitable operation of both passneger and commercial shipping.

All great products features but someone has to buy the first one and show that the things works and that the savings are real.

And that was the real news coming out of the photo op that showed two very large metal seals that use processes that are Thordon Bearings intellectual property. The company pioneered the use of polymers some time ago.


Sandy Thomson, thinking through his answer to a question at a Chamber of Commerce event.

Sandy Thomson, the founder of the company didn’t attend the cheque announcement event – he was in Europe meeting with a client. “But he was certainly there in spirit: said his daughter Anna Galoni.


Sandy Thomson at the helm of a tug boat he bought to install the first propeller shat seal on.

Thordon Bearings define themselves as a place where “innovation rules”. It is in their DNA and comes from the active and inventive mind of Sandy Thomson who is still flying his personal airplane and talking innovation to the 15 full time R&D people on staff.

The federal government has 90 BCIP contract that are active WOR worth more than $40 million.

It is big business – and it is being done right here in Burlington.
Thordon Bearind is a private company.

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