Dietrich Oldendorff photo


As we at Solar Solve enter 2017 it is a very significant year for us. In 1987 John Lightfoot was developing an idea in conjunction with Sunderland Shipbuilders, to design a roller blind that could replace solid Perspex anti-glare screens that were hung or placed in front of a vessel’s wheelhouse windows to help protect the crew from solar glare. Solid screens were very cumbersome to handle, usually difficult to store and took up a lot of valuable space one way or another.

Solar film roller screens would be instantly retractable, revealing clear windows within a few seconds, which was an IMO (International Maritime Organization) requirement for night time navigation and they would reject glare, heat and uv light. As well as the safety aspects concerning the health of the crew, a cooler environment would be an advantage in preventing some equipment in the wheelhouse from overheating and the lack of uv light would prevent paper charts that were still in use, from fading.

When John became aware of the problems with solid screens and found out about solar shade film the answer was obvious. Because the products were for ships and similar sea-going vessels the yards and owners expected them to meet various standards relating to corrosion, reliability and the safety provisions of the Safety Of Life At Sea SOLAS Convention.

It was in November 1986 when John began working on the first solar roller screens, later to be identified by the Trade Mark SOLAROLA®, for installation at the wheelhouse windows of the dry cargo new-builds ‘Dietrich Oldendorff’ and ‘Johanna Oldendorff’.

The screens were very successful but the shipyard wanted a more sophisticated product for the navigation bridge windows of the series of 24 Superflex-2000 ferries that Danish entrepreneur Peter Zaachi had ordered. They wanted them to be enclosed in an aluminium protective cassette that would be easier to install, protect them from damage and keep them clean when not in use.

During 1987 the trading names of SOLAR SOLVE, SOLASOLV, SOLAROLA and SOLASAFE were all created, launched and used but they were not all Registered as Trade Marks until John Lightfoot was advised to do so, some years later.

John is very proud of the fact that not only did SOLAROLA and SOLASAFE quickly become the global marine industry’s Brand Leaders for that type of product, they have maintained the No.1 position throughout the 30 years since the first ones were sold.

Along the way John, who is now chairman of Solar Solve Marine and his Managing Director, daughter Julie Lightfoot, have both been to Buckingham Palace to be presented with Member of the British Empire awards from Her Majesty The Queen, for Services to International Trade.

The DIETRICH OLDENDORFF was delivered to German Shipowner Egon Oldendorff with John Lightfoot’s newly developed SOLAROLA ® anti-glare roller blinds installed at all 13 of the wheelhouse windows in March 1987.