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JW Fishers exec describes growing international use of remote controlled vehicles by divers
By Chris Combs
Almost every commercial diving company is now employing an ROV in some part of their operation. Most recognize the ROV is not a replacement for the diver, but rather a tool to help make his job safer, faster and easier. Inspecting a site with a remote controlled vehicle before sending someone below, allows both diver and topside personnel to better understand the working environment, nature and extent of the job.
One company successfully using the ROV is Works of Diving Hong Kong Ltd, a member of the International Association of Diving Contractors. With more than 30 years’ experience in the commercial diving industry, co-owners Albert Lam and Tatsushi Kagaya have gained considerable expertise in marine engineering, and extensive knowledge of project management and design. Together they have the capability to execute all aspects of underwater construction, maintenance, repair, and demolition. The company has participated in many of Hong Kong’s big infrastructure projects such as the intake installations at the Lamma Island Power Station and KCRC West Rail, and the Submarine Outfall Installation. They do plant and facilities maintenance work for the Drainage Services Department, and have collaborated with China Guangzhou Salvage on bigger projects. Their extensive line of equipment includes a derrick lighter, tug boats, a full line of commercial diving equipment, underwater still and video cameras, and a JW Fishers SeaLion-2 ROV.
A recent project where the ROV proved essential was the inspection of water storage tank at a local power station. Among the obstacles Works of Diving had to overcome were devising a way to get men and equipment to the top of the 15 meter high structure, and determining how to get inside the huge tank with an opening only ½ meter in diameter. The narrow steel tube leading into the dark interior was a tight fit for an average man, and would have been nearly impassable for a fully dressed diver. The solution proved to be the ROV which was easily lowered through the small opening, eliminating the need to send a person into the confined space. Operations supervisor Andrew Jenner reported, “The SeaLion worked extremely well sending us back some great video of the tank’s interior. It helped make this difficult job so much easier.”
Another diving company utilizing an ROV is INSUB in Chile. Managing director Pedro Bizama Mundaca is an accomplished oceanographer, commercial diver and graduate of the Chilean Navy’s Polytechnic Academy. INSUB offers a variety of services including bathymetric and hydrographic surveys, environmental impact studies, dredging, underwater welding, as well as inspection and maintenance of marine terminals and navigation aids. To assist in these projects the company acquired a JW Fishers SeaLion-2 ROV with a SCAN-650 sonar and single function manipulator. The sonar scans a 360 degree circle around the ROV providing the operator with a detailed image of the underwater environment and helping him guide the vehicle to the target of interest until it comes within video range of the ROV’s cameras. In a recent offshore operation the ROV was put to work inspecting a buoy marine terminal, a floating hull with a rotating head to which vessels can moor. “The SeaLion worked very well on this job” reported Mr. Mundaca. “We were able to examine the submerged hull, chain, and mooring without having to deploy a diver.”
Commercial diving companies aren’t the only ones putting ROVs to work. Entrepreneurs, like Australian Steve Robinson, are also discovering how ROVs can provide unique opportunities and make their businesses more profitable. Steve is in the process of setting up a business to collect rare seashells in water depths of 50 to 300 meters; far beyond the range of sport diving. These are no ordinary shells, but rather unique specimens in high demand by collectors. The buying and selling of these mollusks is a multimillion dollar worldwide industry. To ensure the harvesting of these rare specimens is sustainable, the industry is regulated by the Australian Fisheries Department, EPA, Conservation Council, and a number of other agencies. In addition to attempting to build a profitable enterprise, Robinson also plans on conducting scientific research in the deep waters off South Australia, an area very little is known about. He will be video mapping the ocean floor, examining the health of fish stocks, and looking for signs of subsea resources that could possibly be developed.
To conduct all of these various tasks Steve is building a very specialized underwater robotic system capable of working in the high current of these deep water zones, with the capacity to pick up small delicate shells and deposit them in collection basket. At the heart of the system is a SeaLion-2. Steve says, “the key to this business was finding an ROV able to go these depths at an economical cost, which is why I choose Fishers vehicle. It has all the things I needed like auto depth, auto distance off bottom, and on screen display; and its ruggedly built and easy to field service. It just made sense to go with their system.”