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ROV NEWS: Undersea tourism gets offshore technology

Posted on 06.07.2006 - 00:23 EDT in ROV NEWS by Rons_ROV_Links

SEAEYE: Undersea tourism gets offshore technologyUndersea tour operators seeking to bring the best live images of historical wrecks and sea life to their customers in high resolution colour have turned to Seaeye's Falcon ROV.
The first two operators in the world to exploit the most advanced technology available in this class of ROV, are Roving Eye Enterprises in the Orkney Isles north of Scotland, and Caribbean Undersea Adventures based in the British Virgin Islands.

Both companies have chosen the Falcon for its ability to hold steady whilst transmitting sharp images bathed in powerful lights. They also picked the vehicle for its precision manoeuvrability around the wrecks and its lightweight handling in launch and recovery.

Ten years ago Roving Eye Enterprises was the first to use an ROV in this way. Investing in a Hyball ROV they gave people their first chance to explore the seven remaining scuttled wrecks of the First World War German fleet in Scapa Flow in safety and comfort. Since when over 10,000 people have seen sights that only scuba divers from around the world have been able to explore. On the way to and from the dive sites passengers get to see common and grey seals and an abundance of seabirds.

Visitors getting their Falcon briefing

Roving Eye's Survey Vessel - 'Guide'

The popularity and professionalism of the venture has won many accolades for Roving Eye. These include a three star rating as a Scottish Tourist Board Visitor Attraction; being the first boat in Scotland to get the Green Tourism Award; winning the British Archaeological Award; and also the award for Vision in Business for the Environment. They have also been featured in many TV programmes and magazine articles.

The ongoing success of this venture has encouraged Roving Eye's Keith and Kathy Bichan to upgrade their Hyball to the more technologically advanced Seaeye Falcon. They say their new ROV gives their customers a much better viewing experience because the Falcon holds 'steady as a rock' in the tides and sends back much better images with higher definition and truer colours.

Launching Falcon to view wrecks of
German warships in Scapa Flow

Although Keith and Kathy Bichan have a soft spot for the Hyball which helped give birth of their venture, they recognised that technology has moved on and the Falcon has significant operational advantages, including reliability. And with so many customers returning for the experience, including corporate groups, the Falcon's imaging gives their customers a fresh perspective of the underwater world, says Keith Bichan. 'For our customers, every dive is a live dive with something different to see each time amongst the wrecks which have now turned in to man made reefs.'

Caribbean Undersea Adventures (CUA), whose newly launched tour business in the British Virgin Islands is the only commercial tourism ROV operation in the Caribbean, also plan to give customers a unique view of the many historic wrecks in the area that date from the 1700's, along with the abundance of undersea life. One of their dive sites, the RMS Rhone, was a Royal Mail Steam Ship that sank during a hurricane off Salt Island. This is just one of many interesting explorations that will give people an opportunity to see an underwater world too deep even for divers and tourist submarines to venture, with the advantage that the Falcon can stay submerged for an indefinite time.

Seaeye Falcon onboard the Sea Falcon

Recovering the Falcon

Operators Andy Cowan and Chris Charlton plan for their customers to enjoy live undersea action on a 50 inch plasma colour monitor, and with fish cards for identification, something extra will be added to the experience. This is of particular advantage to educational groups who are an important target market for CUA who offer a 'Living Undersea Classroom'.

Both Roving Eye Enterprises and Caribbean Undersea Adventures have also found added value in their Falcons by winning commercial ROV contract work.

Roving Eye's first job was a baseline cable survey for a tidal generator which Keith Bichan says was a task that only the small but powerful Falcon could tackle. The ROV has been working in two knots of current in an area where it can run at seven knots, his customer expressing amazement at how well the Falcon performed in the conditions. Roving Eye also has a contract to survey 27 kilometres of pipeline and Keith Bichan believes that with so many tooling options available to him, a much wider range of contract work has now opened up.

In the Caribbean a great deal of interest has been generated in the Falcon for CUA who has already won a contract with Bristol University for an expedition to search for the remains of the HMS Nymph which sank in 1783. They are hoping for contracts with the marine police, the customs authorities and marine surveyors, along with the Virgin Islands Search and Rescue organisation. Andy Cowan and Chris Charlton are IMCA ROV Supervisors with over 10 years of commercial ROV experience around the world and chose Seaeye's Falcon after using the company's ROVs on various projects for Global Industries, DSND, Fugro and Rovtech.

Both Roving Eye and CUA have vessels ideally suited for their conditions. CUA has an air-conditioned 47 foot catamaran operating out of Nanny Cay Resort and the Marina on Tortola, and Roving Eye operates out of Scapa Flow in their sturdy 54 foot ex pilot boat, sailing from the historic First World Seaplane base at Houton.

For more information:

Roving Eye Enterprises
Telephone +44 (0)1856 811360

Caribbean Undersea Adventures
Telephone +1 284 443 7336

Seaeye Marine Ltd
Telephone +44 (0)1329 289 000

July 5, 2006


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