Connectivity on the North Sea

The Continental Shelf department of our Network Solutions business unit is responsible for the construction and maintenance of telecommunications networks on drilling rigs and production sites in the North Sea. Aerial inspections, troubleshooting and maintenance of radio links are all part of the job. Oil and gas production companies are largely dependent on a well-functioning communication network. As such, a reliable network with a high availability rate is essential.

Offshore connectivity

VolkerWessels Telecom colleague Edwin Jongmans takes off by helicopter from Den Helder airport about 2-3 times a month in order to carry out work on the North Sea. The Dutch part of the North Sea alone is home to about 110 platforms and about 10 oil rigs. And those sites need to be connected of course.

Redundant ring

The further you are from land, the weaker the signal of your mobile phone becomes. Consequently, on the North Sea you can’t use your smartphone. Calling and surfing the net is done via the landline on the platform, which is possible thanks to radio links. All platforms in the North Sea are connected to each other in a redundant ring. If one platform in the ring doesn’t work or isn’t in use, the adjoining platform takes over.

Living and working at sea

Netwerk Solutions sometimes has about 15 people working at sea: six from Continental Shelf, four from the Radio Links department and various aerial builders. Sometimes the men have to spend the night at sea. Nothing less than a hurricane must be forecast for a helicopter not to take off. And every time that happens is an adventure. All passengers follow a special training course for flying over the sea, otherwise they’re not allowed to board. The flight often takes 1-1.5 hours. Passengers also have to wear a thick safety suit with a life jacket, so this trip isn’t particularly comfortable. And the return trip? You never know exactly when you’ll be picked up again. A flexible agenda is a prerequisite.