In Ocean Floor Geophysics’ (OFG) work as a provider of underwater analysis and exploration services, rock-solid communications are critical. If your task takes you out into the middle of the ocean, a reliable solution is critical, which is why OFG chose to implement a Clear-Com DX210 Digital Wireless System to guarantee quality communications across all operations. Recently, OFG also added Clear-Com’s LQ® Series of IP Interfaces the Agent-IC® Mobile App to their existing DX™ wireless system to better facilitate remote communications between offshore crews, onshore crews and globally dispersed staff during the pandemic, making their Clear-Com solution even more invaluable than they originally thought.
“I come from the Remote Operated Vehicle industry and the communications systems used between the ROV pilot, the people on deck, and the bridge of the ship, are universally known as the ‘Clear-Coms,’ regardless of who they’re made by,” says OFG’s Offshore Project Manager, Tony Wass. “You know we use the word Kleenex for facial tissue? And, in Britain, they use the word Hoover for a vacuum cleaner? It’s like that.”
“What we do is extremely diverse,” Alison Proctor, COO explains: “geohazard reconnaissance, oil, gas, and archeological surveys, engineering work, pipeline inspections, detailed magnetics… we use the system to facilitate communication between physically apart people. And everything we get through GerrAudio and Clear-Com – the integrated belt packs, base stations, headsets – they’re super convenient. With its low latency, the signal is perfect. It’s very powerful.”
Typically, the Clear-Com kits OFG deploy consist of DX-wireless intercom systems (with 4-6 wireless belt packs), a wired two-channel MS-702 main station, RS-701 single-channel belt packs, and tabletop intercom stations.
“Usually, we have two main stations on board,” Proctor continues. “We use the wireless belt packs on deck or wherever our operating area is. With the MS-702, one channel is attached to wireless to facilitate communications for OFG’s working group, and the other channel is for the entire vessel. So, when we’re doing a joint operation, we bring everybody together on a party-line.”
Wass is responsible for assembling the people and gear that go out on the ships and has been instrumental in putting together the comms systems for OFG. And, although he doesn’t want to brag about what the Clear-Com gear has gone through over time, suffice to say, it stands up to the rigors of the job in an environment that can be extremely severe and unforgiving, and in a situation where losing time to faulty communications gear is not an option.
“Some of these projects are running $150,000 a day,” he explains, referencing a job off the coast of Japan in 2014 on a ship using a non-Clear-Com system, “and the comms system we had at the time was inadequate and elongating our time out there. “
In 2015, he adds, “We started bringing our own Clear-Com gear in. So now I can communicate directly with the bridge. I’m not yelling. I can talk hands-free and not have to push a button to transmit. I know what’s going on at all times. In a critical application like this, that’s invaluable.”
According to Proctor, it’s become even more crucial since the pandemic. “During this past year we’ve had to change our way of doing things and GerrAudio helped us to take this off-shore system we’ve come to rely on as a sturdy communication hub on a vessel and access it remotely through their LQ and Agent-IC mobile technology,” Proctor explains.
Now, using the LQ and the Agent-IC Mobile App downloaded onto personal Android and iOS devices, they’re communicating more widely, fluidly, reliably and with far more people than ever before –facilitating conversations between offshore crews and other team members who are scattered around the globe.
“The company is in Burnaby, British Columbia, but we have a very widespread global team,” Proctor notes. Adding that during the pandemic, expanding the capabilities of their communications systems has become even more critical to effectively connecting everyone involved on any given project –as has their need for the ongoing, responsive and knowledgeable support provided by GerrAudio.
“We introduced this new technology on a job where we needed to have a remote team participate in the offshore survey. But because of all the restrictions on travel, we couldn’t get all of our normal crew out, so the people we could get there needed to be really well-supported by an onshore team that was globally distributed,” she continues. “we went to GerrAudio and asked them how we could do this using Clear-Com, and they pointed us to Agent-IC and the LQ Series.”
Ultimately, adding Agent-IC has dramatically improved their overall workflow. Proctor says, “Basically, we have two LQ boxes linked together. They go out over the satellite internet, our shore-based people connect to the onshore box and our vessels connect to the offshore one. And the advantage is that I don’t have to ship hardware to anyone. The onshore people download the app and we connect. Compared to a hardware-based system, it’s really simple.”
Wass adds, “we just added Agent-IC on to the system we bought in 2015 – the same headsets, the same workflow, but now we’re talking to Alison in Victoria and everyone else wherever they are in the world.”
The expertise that GerrAudio Distribution brings to the table, particularly that of Shawn Hines (GerrAudio’s west coast representative), makes them an extremely important partner meeting OFG’s evolving needs, Wass says: “If Shawn says, ‘This is going to work for you,’ I don’t even question it. I just do it.”