Remote access support and diagnostics solution for Aquatic tensioners addresses downtime of marine vessels

By installing the eWON VPN routers and using the Talk2M Internet-based remote access system, Aquatic Engineering & Construction Ltd, an Acteon company, is now able to securely monitor and quickly resolve issues on its heavy-duty tensioner equipment, located onboard remote marine vessels via V-SAT (global satellite Internet) links or cellular (3G Internet) connections.  

Aquatic spends a huge amount of time and energy designing in reliability to its machines but inevitably problems occur. The offshore team is well qualified and trained but sometimes the issues of complex machines need a little extra help and whilst a telephone call will often suffice and the option of sending a technician is always available, in an attempt to offer greater resilience and rapidity to the solution, Aquatic sought a way to quiz the machine remotely. With this system, issues can now be investigated and identified by Aquatic engineers, and then together with the offshore team, rectified quickly. The cost of the solution is offset by reducing the number of service engineer calls-out to vessels.

Aquatic is a leading independent operator of modular drive systems, carousel and tensioner solutions for the global oil & gas, telecommunications and energy industries. The company has more than 40 years’ experience in onshore and offshore installations, transpooling, recovery and decommissioning works. With teams in Houston (USA), Aberdeen, Peterhead, Woking and Singapore, Aquatic is capable of meeting customer needs for any spooling installation project worldwide.

Brian McRitchie is Electrical Manager at Aquatic’s marine workshop facility in Peterhead, Scotland. He comments: “Aquatic provides an extensive range of equipment for the installation and spooling of flexible flowlines, umbilicals, cables, wire ropes and coil tubing.  Installed on marine vessels, this equipment can include anything from small tensioners to dual tensioner systems, powered reel drive systems or a fully modular carousel system with built-in tensioner. Our customers hire this service and expect the equipment and the personnel that operate it, to perform reliably with minimal downtime.”

“The ship could be located anywhere in the world. Therefore, if there is an uncommon problem with our machine, we need to resolve it quickly,” adds McRitchie.

Remote access connectivity

With a background that includes 22 years in the Royal Navy, McRitchie began to look for a suitable remote access solution. “I knew from my time in the Royal Navy that remote access communications were possible and could offer value for money, so I started to search for a suitable VPN router that we could integrate to our 85Te dual tensioner system. I wanted a solution that would allow our engineers in Scotland to monitor and diagnose equipment faults remotely, wherever that ship is in the world,” he explains.

“After much research, in late 2013, we came across eWON’s Talk2M solution and VPN router, via the MAC Solutions website. We felt this was the simplest, most cost effective solution available on the market.

“In order to test and fully understand the VPN router and Talk2M, we trialled the system on one of our 50Te tensioners in the workshop at Peterhead. Everything worked very well and if we didn’t understand something, the team at MAC Solutions quickly provided us with the necessary technical support. With Talk2M, it’s as if the service engineer is physically onboard the ship, next to the machine or control cabinet, accessing the HMI display or PLC, with a laptop,” enthuses McRitchie.

EWON’s Talk2M (Talk to Machines) is an Internet-based remote access support and diagnostics service, available in the UK through Industrial Data Communications company MAC Solutions. The software offers a professional platform with all the security, reliability and traceability required by industrial and marine applications. Talk2M is a unique, secure and affordable service that enables OEMs, machine builders and systems integrators to provide remote maintenance, support and diagnostics for machines in remote locations or onboard marine vessels. Talk2M can be accessed anywhere in the world, using secure Broadband and other secure wireless connections.

The three routers installed on Aquatic’s 85Te dual-tensioner systems are eWON 2005CD industrial-grade routers with dual LAN/modem connectivity. As well as being equipped with an Ethernet port, two of the three routers also have SIM cards, which in the event of a V-SAT link being unavailable, enables Aquatic engineers to access their equipment, via a 3G cellular network.

The eWON and Talk2M solution provides Aquatic with a differentiator for their 85Te dual tensioner systems hired out to marine vessel operators. “Some of our tensioner systems also have cameras installed, so that local operators can see what is happening, from their control room or booth. Talk2M also enables me to access this same web-camera view. I can also screen-share with a user, to remotely instruct them on the operational idiosyncrasies of the systems or how to navigate through the more isolated control and monitoring screens,” adds McRitchie.

David Tibbetts, VP Technology commented, “The trial and subsequent installation of this solution onto our larger tensioners further demonstrates our commitment to our customers, any advantage we can offer can improve both the project timings and the financial, commercial benefits of the contract. We look forward to rolling this solution out to the remainder of our tensioner fleet.”

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