Blastsax Umi

We meet Richard Bailey, Managing Director at Environmental Defence Systems Ltd who are shortlisted for Micro Exporter of the Year at the PD Ports Northern Powerhouse Export Awards 2020.

What does your company do?  

Environmental Defence Systems Ltd has three innovative products that save money,     damage and lives.  

FloodSax alternative sandbags stop torrential floodwater outside and also soak up spills and leaks in hard-to-reach places inside properties. They resemble a large pillowcase until they come into contact with water which they absorb to become better than traditional sandbags at stopping floodwater from getting into homes and businesses … and there are 5.2 million homes at risk of flooding in England alone. 

AvSax fire containment bags mitigate fires in planes caused by burning batteries in mobile phones and other electronic devices such as laptops taken on board by passengers and crewThe AvSax won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for its innovation in 2018. 

BlastSax ‘sandless’ sandbags mitigate small explosive devices and stop certain types of bullets. They work like FloodSax. 

When was your company launched, who by and why? 

Environmental Defence Systems Ltd was launched in 2007 by managing director Richard Bailey, an entrepreneur who had previously devised Aireshelta inflatable buildings for use by the emergency services, armed forces and many other organisations worldwide. His inflatable decontamination system used by Staffordshire Ambulance Service won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for its innovation in 2001. 

How long has the company been exporting? 

EDS has been exporting right from the start as there is a clear worldwide market for its 3 products, FloodSax, BlastSax and AvSax. The USA quickly became a major market. 

What do you currently export and where to? 

Just about anywhere in the world but the countries where we have partners include the USA, Japan, Australia, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Spain, France, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kuwait, Singapore and Switzerland.  

What motivated you to start selling overseas and how long did it take? 

The motivation was to enhance and maximise sales but we’ve been dedicated to the process over the years, ensuring our partners have robust policies in place to meet our expectations and standards. Looking for partners overseas is a never-ending process as there is a lot of world out there! 

What is the easiest part of exporting? 

It’s never an easy process so it’s important to use logistics companies with experience in exporting worldwide and can deal with all the paperwork which can change from country to country. 

What is the export challenge you’re most proud of overcoming? How did you manage this? 

We were especially proud to supply a 40ft container of FloodSax to Nigeria, managing to negotiate our way through their bureaucracy, complicated paperwork and export process. We have also supplied a vast quantity of AvSax fire containment bags to the USA which are now on board and protecting some of the biggest airline companies in the United States and, indeed, the world. We now have more than 15,300 AvSax on board planes operated by 80 airline companies. 

Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from and how did it help you? 

In the past we have sought advice and help from the Department for International Trade but most of our export success has been accomplished from within the company, learning through experience and seeking support from logistics companies with experience exporting to the countries we target. 

What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets? 

It’s vital you do your homework on the countries you are targeting and we would advise UK exporters to find a partner or distributor within that country as they will have far more local knowledge about that country’s needs and distribution networks.

Also, make sure there is a requirement for your product in your target countries. 
Think very carefully about what you agree with any new overseas partner or distributor and it’s always best to draw up a formal written agreement so you both have a clear reference of the aims you want to achieve, what you expect of the partner or distributor and what they can expect from you.  

Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in five years’ time? 

We think there is scope to do more in our larger markets such as FloodSax in the USA and perhaps need to contemplate having more distributors in countries which cover vast geographical areas. There are real concerns about climate change and we have seen recent flash flooding worldwide from Spain to the Middle East so FloodSax, in particular, is a product that really can be used anywhere and at any time, especially as it can also protect properties from internal flooding caused by leaks and spills. 

The challenge is always finding good quality overseas partners and distributors who share our strict standards (we are an ISO company) and strong ethical expectations on issues ranging from slave labour and equal opportunities to protecting the environment. 

How do you feel about being shortlisted for the Northern Powerhouse Export Awards and what does it mean to your business?  

Any business which is shortlisted for the awards will hopefully add to the information available in our region about the importance of exploring overseas markets and the prosperity than can bring both to the company and our region in general. Exporting is a continual challenge but the more companies that can share best practice then the better it is for us all. 

Find out more about the awards at 

Amanda Armstrong
Article by Amanda Armstrong
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