Offshore Technology Conference – Marine Gadgets

OTC 2001 Houston LogogCaptain CMO Rob Almeida and I have been walking the halls of the, truly massive, Offshore Technology Conference in Houston this week. While 90% of the booths are drilling technology of little interest to most of our readers (unless iron roughnecks and power-tongs are your thing?) there are certainly hidden gems in the rough. Many of the new items gCaptain will be featuring in full leanght articles of the future but here’s a quick list of some favorites:

Lifesaving Laundry Chute

Offshore Chute Evacuation SystemThere have been many lessons learned in the year since the Deepwater Horizon’s tragic explosion but one remains in the forefront of my mind… we need to look at alternative methods of evacuating rigs. For this reason I was particularly interested in Viking’s offshore evacuation system.

While this unit is basically a laundry chute for people, the design and engineering of the product leaves no stone unturned. Capable (and tested!) of evacuating 140 people in just 10 minutes the unit itself is made of kevlar netting and nomex line… materials more famous for their use in bulletproof vests and fire suits. This means they will not melt under high heat conditions and provide a smooth transit for personnel escaping oil and gas fires. The netting itself is capable of withstanding high wind conditions and the entire system has been tested to survive 10 meter seas.

gCaptain will be looking more at this technology in a future post but, from first look, Viking has all the problems answered including evacuating personnel via a stretch and options for moutning the unit on ship-shaped hulls (more on this later).

Waterproof Touchable PC

Citadel Touchscreen Waterproof PC ComputerThe world is enamored by the latest touch screen technologies like the iPad and Android reader but neither is waterproof, intrinsically safe or capable of running windows programs. Citadel Computer’s touch-screen computers (yes, the computer lives within the monitor!) have all three features and a reasonable price point.

The company itself started by making computer screens for industrial forklifts but has since branched out to other industrial applications. Yet they have seen little market adoption aboard ships… hopefully this will change as it’s a perfect solution for AIS and pilot stations on bridge wings. The fact they offer intrinsically safe models means they might be of great use as loading computers on tankers and LNG’s.

Heated Flooring

Industrial Heated Floor MatsMy first crude oil tanker was of 1970’s vintage meaning it was built without the creature comforts of enclosed bridge wings or a comfy cargo control room. While most of these ships have been phased out, mariners still need to spend a large amount of time out on deck… and when the decks are icy it quickly becomes a safety issue.

Advanced Mat Systems has a solution with non-skid, cushioned mats – of industrial strength – which are heated! Not much more to say about this technology, it just works, but the company tells me they are also developing a new system of heated hand-rails.

Glass Zip Ties

Industrial heavy-duty zip tiesTip ties are one of my favorite inventions because they are cheap and simple… just bend them around a bunch of wires and pull tight! But for heavy duty applications mariners have been stuck using metal banding solutions with difficult to handle tools metal bands which are either susceptible to rust or prohibitively expensive.

HCL Clamping Solutions has an answer with heavy duty zip-ties made of industrial nylon and glass. Yes, glass – woven in strands – comprises the inners of these bands giving their smallest tie a breaking strength of 750 pounds! Their larger bands have breaking strengths much higher but, while they remain are easy to use compared to metal banding systems – they do require special tools to operate.

Infrared Locator

Scott Eagle Imager 320 Thermal Imaging CameraAs a child I donned my first Scott air pack in the early 80’s at my father’s firehouse in the Bronx. What I loved most about his fire house where always the cool tools I found in the compartments of his heavy rescue truck. They where always of the best quality – FDNY has very strict requirements on the survivability of their tools – and Scott produced many of the components on dad’s truck.

While the company is still, 30 years later, the preferred manufacturer of breathing air systems for the FDNY, their product line has extended to gas sensors, flame detectors and thermal imaging. We have discussed the numerous merits of having a thermal imaging camera in your fire-gear locker before but these were fairly simple units capable of only showing a video image of your surroundings in low visibility environments. Scott’s new technology brings new capability to their Eagle 320 Thermal Imaging units with man down detectors integrated into their thermal imagers.

The idea is simple, each firefighter is given a PASS device – a unit with a motion sensor and alarm which activates a blaring siren when a man looses consciousness – with a homing beacon. The thermal imager takes this beacon signal and tells you if you are moving closer or further away from a victim. Check the details out HERE.

More To Come…

Be sure to stop back in the weeks to come as we bring in depth reviews of technology found at this year’s OTC conference in Houston.