New portable hyperbaric reception facility protects divers from decompression sickness
One of the many dangers that commercial divers face during deep diving operations is decompression sickness – commonly referred to as ‘the bends.’ In the event of an emergency evacuation, even once divers have reached the perceived relative safety of onshore via a hyperbaric lifeboat, they still need to undergo a thorough decompression process to safely return to the surface before being exposed to atmospheric pressure.
Although the preferred option may be to transfer saturation divers to a fixed hyperbaric rescue centre (HRC), often due to time constraints, and depending the location of the divers, this can be challenging. As a contingency, a portable HR facility (HRF) allows divers to safely begin the decompression process even if they are operating in a remote location.
In July, UK-based JFD, part of James Fisher & Sons plc, completed trials of its newest portable hyperbaric reception facility (PHRF) with vessel owner and subsea engineering company TechnipFMC.
The trials involved mating the PHRF with two of TechnipFMC’s dive support vessels (DSVs), Deep Discoverer and Deep Arctic. Deep Discoverer has dynamic positioning class 3 capability, an 18-person twin-bell saturation diving system and an in-built air diving spread. The DSV serves the diving, construction, and inspection, maintenance and repair (IMR) markets in the North Sea.
Deep Arctic’s saturation diving complex consists of two six-person and four three-person living chambers and two three-person diving bells. The system is supported by two 18-person hyperbaric lifeboats.
Over the course of the trials, JFD performed successful mating exercises with the port and starboard self-propelled hyperbaric lifeboats (SPHL) of both DSVs.
During testing, the hyperbaric lifeboats were lifted from the harbour and transported by trailer to the National Hyperbaric Centre. There they were mated with the PHRF using a precise hydraulic system to ensure a solid seal with no leaks, facilitating a safe and effective decompression process.
Critically, each separate mating exercise was completed in less than two hours, which ensures that divers can be transferred into the PHRF as quickly as possible, an essential aspect of conducting safe and efficient rescue operations, and one that optimises the chances of returning the diver to safety.
JFD managing director Giovanni Corbetta said: “Incidents that can impact divers, who are often operating in challenging environments and under difficult conditions, can quickly become life-threatening. Knowing that divers will have access to a PHRF within a short timeframe irrespective of where they are operating offers reassurance that all possible measures have been taken to ensure that divers can safely carry out their operations.”
He added: “These trials are part of an ongoing drive to realise significant improvements in safety standards across the global subsea industry.”
JFD’s portable HRF systems are transportable and designed to suit a variety of hyperbaric lifeboat and HRC configurations to maximise the likelihood of a successful rescue.
The PHRF, model DDC1, is a twin-lock, skid-mounted and enclosed saturation living chamber, consisting of the main lock and entry lock. DDC1 has a depth capacity of 300 m and allows habitation for up to 18 rescued divers during decompression and a medical attendant if required.