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Salmon farmer introduces ‘industry-first’ person overboard alert

Loch Duart health and safety manager David McKeown wearing a life jacket fitted with the fish farmer's new person overboard (POB) system, developed in conjunction with Watt Marine Ltd. Photo: Loch Duart.
Loch Duart health and safety manager David McKeown wearing a life jacket fitted with the fish farmer's new person overboard (POB) system, developed in conjunction with Watt Marine Ltd. Photo: Loch Duart.

Scottish salmon farmer Loch Duart has introduced what it says is an industry-first person overboard (POB) system for all its team who work at sea.

Once activated on contact with water, the new POB system sends a distress signal to alert all radios, boats and landing craft in the vicinity that the person is overboard, as well as triggering an audible alarm on the farm.

Loch Duart’s health and safety manager David McKeown worked with engineering firm Watt Marine Ltd to develop the system. McKeown also consulted with the Marine Coast Guard Agency that approved the new system.

A lifejacket fitted with the POB device. Photo: Loch Duart.
A lifejacket fitted with the POB device. Photo: Loch Duart.

Automatic activation

If a person goes overboard by accident or due to weather conditions, the device is automatically activated when the life jacket is deployed. All life jackets automatically deploy when in salt sea water.

The POB alert works in three stages:

  • Within 15 seconds of activation the POB system sends out a distress signal and alerts all radios, boats and landing craft in the vicinity that the person is overboard.
  • Within 45 seconds the personal location device sets off an audible alarm on the farm.
  • Within one minute the personal location device sends a further distress signal to the Coastguard and other vessels within the area.

Pushing standards higher

“Our people are the most important pillar of Loch Duart’s success, and we are always looking at ways to further improve their safety,” said McKeown in a press release.

“We worked closely with Watt Marine Ltd to push the standards higher and improve safety at sea beyond the industry norm. Loch Duart is now, arguably, ahead of everyone else in the sector regarding safety at sea.”

Watt Marine director Struan Eaglesham said the company had supplied, installed and serviced marine electronics systems to Loch Duart for many years. “With no off-the-shelf solution available, we designed, developed, tested and implemented the new system to further improve workforce safety. Working with Echomaster Marine Ltd we then developed and implemented the man overboard system, which utilises personal flotation devices, VHF radios and automatic identification systems.”

Championing change

Kerrie Forster, chief executive of The Work Boat Association, said: “The work that Loch Duart has conducted to further increase safety during their marine operations has been greatly welcomed by industry.

“Loch Duart has made big strides to better protect the welfare of those working on Loch Duart sites. Thanks to the open sharing of the project’s outcomes at industry safety groups, such as the Workboat Association Safety Forum and the Aquaculture Safety Group, they have championed change across the whole sector. Well done to all the team involved.”