Staying connected against the elements
The North Sea is infamous for its expansive waters and unforgiving weather conditions. Amidst these challenges, we had the opportunity to speak with Les Bannister, a seasoned professional at MMX with significant experience deploying a wide range of topside comms systems for our offshore sector clients. In this Q&A, Les sheds light on the common obstacles faced in establishing resilient networks that can withstand the unpredictable nature of the North Sea.
Hi Les, tell us about the North Sea’s extreme weather conditions
The North Sea is prone to powerful storms, fuelled by the clash of warm and cold air. These storms can generate rough seas and strong winds, sometimes exceeding hurricane force. Combine this with the bitter cold, fog, ice and fluctuating temperatures, and you’ve got plenty of challenges that can lead to signal disruption, equipment damage and even system failure if you don’t have the right setup in place. Here at MMX, our teams are trained to handle extreme weather conditions effectively and we’ve got the know-how to troubleshoot and resolve issues both safely and promptly.
What are the biggest communication challenges that you need to overcome?
• Signal interference
Due to the stormy conditions in the North Sea, waves can cause significant signal interference, affecting the clarity and reliability of communication. To combat this we employ advanced technologies and signal processing techniques to mitigate interference and maintain seamless connectivity.
• Equipment durability
Offshore installations and vessels must withstand extreme weather conditions. That’s why we carefully select and install ruggedized equipment capable of withstanding strong winds, corrosive saltwater and temperature variations.
• System redundancy
Building redundancy into communication networks is crucial to ensure uninterrupted connectivity. Robust systems with backup infrastructure, alternative power sources, and redundant data paths to minimise downtime during adverse weather events is key.
• Safety & emergency communications
Effective communication during emergencies is of utmost importance for our clients. We’re well-versed in the design and implementation of emergency communication protocols, including distress signals, emergency frequencies, and backup communication channels.
Can MMX help with SCADA and application monitoring?
Yes. We’re passionate about making it easy for our clients to monitor and maintain offshore installations from their offshore facilities. This reduces the need for personnel to be physically present in challenging weather conditions, enhancing safety and efficiency.
What are the best communication technologies for offshore communications?
We don’t have a one size fits all approach, instead, each client’s needs are addressed individually. And because we’re vendor-agonistic, it means we can cherry-pick from the best-in-class technologies to provide the right solutions.
Alongside the traditional methods of RF and microwave, we’re increasingly utilising satellite networks to establish reliable connections at sea. This allows our clients’ offshore teams to stay connected even in the most adverse weather conditions.
We also really love to add value by leveraging data analytics and predictive maintenance techniques to proactively identify potential issues. For example, by analysing historical data and weather patterns, we can schedule maintenance activities during favourable weather conditions, minimising disruptions and downtime.
Being a communications systems integrator in the North Sea is no easy feat. The relentless challenges posed by extreme weather conditions demand resilience, expertise and constant innovation. Despite these difficulties, the team at MMX plays a crucial role in connecting people and maintaining seamless communication, even in the harshest environments.