We had an excellent 2008 and made substantial progress, despite facing severe currency headwinds and steep rises in raw material prices. Double-digit sales volume growth was achieved for the fourth year in a row, and although the business climate became more challenging, we continued to grow throughout the year. Our enhanced capability to bring new products to the market also resulted in a number of important, eco-friendly technologies being introduced.
Currency headwinds and raw material price escalation were key factors in the first half of the year. An additional issue was that we buy a lot of copper and zinc, which we use in our formulations. Not only have they both increased in price considerably over the last few years, but the price was also very volatile during 2008, which presented particular challenges. However, by concentrating on our growth strategy and maintaining our focused approach to operational excellence, we were able to expand the business and grow EVA. We have reduced the amount of cash required to fund our business, improved productivity at almost every manufacturing location, especially in the advanced economies, and enhanced our service levels in every geographical region in each of the last three years.
We grew in all regions – the highest rate coming in the BRIC1 countries – and even achieved growth success in the US and the UK, where the economies experienced difficulties. Our highest rate of growth was in Protective Coatings, where sales grew by around 20 percent globally during the year. The oil and gas market remained important for us, but we also made good progress in the power market, in petrochemicals, in mining and minerals and in high value infrastructure projects.
The Marine business grew strongly and we continue to be the global market leader, not only in volume, but also in value. Our Yacht activities continued to perform well, and we benefited from a strong superyacht market, despite ever-tightening environmental legislation.
During the first eight months of the year our Aerospace business pushed ahead strongly, but was then tested by the deteriorating market conditions for aircraft maintenance and repair as airlines reduced their spend and mothballed planes. We responded with a mixture of improvements in internal efficiencies and a number of high value product introductions, which ultimately resulted in a satisfactory performance.
All businesses also contributed to our HSE achievements. We reduced our VOC emissions and our waste across the organization and we are continuing to invest in a behavioral based safety program, which has already been implemented at some of our major sites.
1 Brazil, Russia, India and China.