ROVworld Subsea Information

Lowestoft firm aids offshore safety
Date: Wednesday, September 17, 2008 @ 09:58:27 EDT

Fern Communications NewsAn offshore communications company has successfully designed and tested a unique device which allows engineers working in dangerous or confined spaces to maintain radio contact.

Lowestoft-based Fern Communications has been a provider of two-way communication systems to the oil and gas industry since it was set up in 2002.

Now the company's engineers have created a unique radio repeater which can direct signals around solid structures so that workers on oil rigs and gas platforms never lose reception in radio black spots.

Fern Communications

Clive Cushion, Fern Communications' technical director, said the FRX-1 radio repeater was the first of its kind in the world.

"Through making communications equipment for the oil and gas industry, we came to realise that there was a need for this additional piece of kit which didn't exist and we had the skills in-house to make it," he said.

"What we have produced is a radio repeater, which triangulates the transmission from one radio to another handset. This means that on an oil rig, one worker can be on the upper level and another down below and previously there would have been interference from the structure.

"If the repeater is placed somewhere between the radio handsets, it will bend the signal round the structure so the workers do not have to be in line of sight of one another, and it can work with many radios all at once.

"Working in dangerous places, it is vital to maintain communication and with the FRX-1 you are never out of contact."

The portable repeater has been specially designed to be used in hazardous areas, such as near ignitable gases or in confined and isolated spaces.

It was subjected to a two-month test period earlier this summer and was used during a planned shutdown at Thetford power station, where engineers from Tyco Fire and Integrated Solutions in Yarmouth were able to stay in constant contact with colleagues using the new radio repeater.

Stuart Harvey, service and training manager for Tyco, said: "The unit worked very well. Even those working in the most extreme positions within the superstructure of the power station were able to get a radio signal."

Mr Cushion said that production of the FRX-1 repeater is already underway at their workshop on the Pinbush Industrial Estate in Lowestoft and that he will be conducting further field tests this autumn in the Gulf of Mexico with leading American oil companies.

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