Planet Ocean and the Jersey Buoys

September 27, 2010

When the States Of Jersey in the Channel Islands kept losing their wave profiling buoy to extreme weather, trawling, and shipping impacts, they contacted UK based Planet Ocean ltd for advice. The buoy was deployed in the approaches to St Helier harbour, and provides important sea state information to the high speed ferries (shipping) arriving from the UK and France.

Planet Ocean Ltd (who represent Canadian manufacturer AXYS Technologies Inc from Sidney British Columbia) suggested replacing the existing 1m diameter low profile buoy with a larger 1.75m diameter WatchKeeper buoy. The WatchKeeper has a 2.3 m focal plane height and carries a full specification navigation light and radar reflector and thus has a far greater surface presence. Its size makes it much less susceptible to extreme weather conditions and accidental impact from shipping and since it can carry heavier moorings it is less likely to be trawled. The unique 6 degrees of freedom sensor used in the TRIAXYS directional wave system, means that it can be transplanted from the traditional spherical 1m diameter buoys into hulls of almost any size thus allowing Planet Ocean to offer this solution.

Planet Ocean Jersey buoy 2This idea was of immediate interest to the Harbour Department who already had a number of older steel navigation buoys to hand. These had voluminous sealed internal bays, which in the old days held the large battery banks to power the navigation lights, fog horns, and RACONS and wondered if these buoys could be utilised. Because of the flexibility of the TRIAXYS sensor in terms of mounting position, and platform shape and size this was a totally viable option, and one that had been successfully employed elsewhere.

As a relatively small community, the States Departments of Harbours, Transport & Technical Services, Communications Services, Information Services, Coastguard and Planning & Environment’s Met Department work very closely together and word soon got around that the wave buoy would likely be deployed on this new larger platform. As a result, the Met Department wondered if they could have some meteorological sensors fitted as wind speed direction, air temperature, air pressure and relative humidity would be most useful measurement offshore. The standard wave systems already incorporate a sea surface temperature sensor. The additional met information would be most useful to them directly, and would be a very useful addition to the wave data provided to the coast guard and harbours. Thus the request came out, “can we add these parameters to the new buoy”? “No problem”, said Planet Ocean and so provision was made to add these sensors by offering a WatchMan500 controller module to merge the data from the wave sensor, and met sensors. The WatchMan500 is a powerful module which can handle numerous sensor, data logging, and telemetry functions, is totally configurable, low power and reliable. The buoy is also fitted with a GPS position monitor which alerts the users should it wander off station, and allows it to be tracked to recovery.

This then opened up a number of levels of interest and so the data network began to grow, with differing information sets required by the various interested parties. The system grew and eventually, a design was arrived at which provided a buoy retrofit package that would be powered by existing buoy solar power pack, UHF radio telemetry to and from the buoy via a master station at St Helier harbour and with data sent onward via the States Intranet system to harbour Control, Coast Guard, Met Office and other users within the States organisation.

Planet Ocean Jersey buoy 1The system was ordered and delivered, and fitted by States of Jersey engineers into a newly reconditioned steel hull. Planet Ocean engineers visited to undertake the commissioning and oversee the deployment. AXYS engineers provided remote support via the internet and the buoy was deployed in the summer of 2009. Unfortunately, local radio interference, that was not evident whilst the buoy was being commissioned ashore, meant that data telemetry was intermittent. This was compounded by a change from the originally specified buoy location. A frequency survey was undertaken which resulted in the identification of a new operating frequency for the telemetry. During the periods which the buoy was able to send its data ashore, results look extremely good. Before the buoy could be recovered for its frequency change, a freak wave hit the buoy and due to the shape of the conical top mark, sea water was directed upwards with force resulting in damage to sensors and antennas. The buoy was subsequently recovered, and wave baffles fitted to prevent a recurrence of the wave damage and was re-deployed in the spring of 2010.

Since then the buoy (WMO 62027) has been performing extremely well, fulfilling its requirement to provide real-time accurate data. This data is now being used by the harbour, coast guard and the Met Department, who code the data every three hours for transmission to the UK Met office for onward distribution to the wider international meteorological community including the US based NDBC (National Data Buoy Centre) which displays the data on their web site.  http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=62027.

This NDBC Web site receives half a million hits per day and is used extensively by Internet companies such as Magicseaweed.com to populate their own Web sites, as well as the buoy owners, to act as a backup database and display system for their products.

As such the Jersey buoy data will be used by the general marine community of the Channel Islands and near by France, both to check the current weather conditions and the sea state, which will aid their safe use of the sea. Surfers will make great use of the data, ‘potentially’ in an environmental way, by reducing the amount of trips to “pop down to St Ouen’s Bay in their car to check out the surf”. The Meteorological and Oceanographic communities will use the data to give them ground truth for their numerical models. This is essential for verification and will allow modellers to fine tune their products giving more reliable forecasts.

There was a short news item about the Buoy which can be seen on Channel on line the link is as below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzUMMoIYLpI

Planet Ocean Ltd would like to take this opportunity to thank the Jersey Harbours Department, Transport & Technical Services, Information Services and Communications Services engineering teams for doing such an excellent job converting the buoy and installing the equipment, “perhaps the best retro fit installation I have seen” commented Planet Ocean’s Terry Sloane. We would also like to thank AXYS Technologies Inc for providing such robust and flexible equipment and for their excellent remote support.

Notes:

Planet Ocean Ltd is a privately owned UK Company based in Surrey, 35 km South West of London England.

Planet Ocean represents some of the Worlds leading manufacturers of oceanographic and scientific instruments and systems.

AXYS Technologies Inc, are based in Sidney, B.C. and are the world foremost provider of data gathering buoys and technology.

Further information, contact:

Carole Sloane.
Communications Director
carole@planet-ocean.co.uk

Unit 8
Camberley Business Centre
Bracebridge
Camberley
Surrey GU15 3DP  UK
Tel: +44 (0)845 108 1457
Fax: +44 (0)845 280 3349
sales@planet-ocean.co.uk

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AXYS Technologies Inc. designs, manufactures, distributes and maintains remote environmental data acquisition, processing and telemetry systems.  For further information contact AXYS at:  info@axys.com or www.axystechnologies.com.