Step change in diver safety as JFD’s COBRA completes first dive in North Sea

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JFD, the world leading underwater capability provider serving the commercial and defence markets and part of James Fisher and Sons plc, has announced the successful completion of the first North Sea dives with COBRA (Compact Bailout Rebreather Apparatus), marking a significant leap forward in diver safety.

Bibby Offshore, leading subsea services supplier to the oil & gas industry, is the first North Sea contractor to adopt COBRA, thereby setting a precedent for diver safety in the region.

In March 2018 JFD delivered six of the rebreather sets to Bibby Offshore in order to enhance diver safety within their saturation diving teams by providing up to 20 minutes of bailout gas at depths of 300msw.  COBRA is certified to a depth of 450msw and is currently being tested to 530msw – therefore greatly improving the chances of survival.

Over a two-week period, the COBRA sets were operated from the Bibby Topaz at a water depth of 110 metres. In all, over 30 bell runs were safely and successfully completed during the course of the operation.

On board assistance was provided by a JFD COBRA technician and instructor who conducted familiarisation training, and also provided advice to the divers and operators throughout the duration of the project.

On the back of this success – and with a high level of diver satisfaction – Bibby Offshore is already commencing its second North Sea dive with the COBRA sets. This new project will see the apparatus tested further, with a diving depth of 130 metres.

Allan Nairn, Director of Diving at Bibby Offshore, commented: “The entirety of our dive team responded positively towards the introduction of the COBRA rebreathers onto the Bibby Topaz. In particular, they emphasised that the benefits of additional breathing duration, the ability to test the COBRA at any time and the apparatus’ ease of use with regards to weight all made them feel safer in conducting their dives.”

JFD worked closely alongside Bibby Offshore personnel in the research, development and testing phases of the system, gaining invaluable feedback which has driven the inclusion of some of the main functionality and safety features.

JFD Managing Director Giovanni Corbetta said: “Enhancing the standard of subsea safety is JFD’s main driver. We have a longstanding reputation of producing the world’s most innovative, capable and proven diving equipment and technologies. By working closely alongside companies like Bibby Offshore who share the same values, we can ensure our products are developed in direct response to user requirements. After a lot of hard work, time and dedication from the JFD team throughout the development and testing phases, it’s a huge triumph to deliver COBRA to one of our most valued clients.”

COBRA was designed and developed in the UK by JFD in response to a crucial need for more advanced ‘bailout technologies’ to provide divers with an extended supply of emergency breathing gas in the event of a primary failure. The set was released last year following rigorous testing and in May 2017 COBRA was granted CE marking status to 300msw to NORSOK U101 (Diving Respiratory Equipment) and EN14143 (Self Contained Rebreathing Apparatus). COBRA is the only commercial emergency rebreather system in the world which can satisfy both of these requirements. As a result, the system pioneers a new level of safety for divers conducting operations around the world.

COBRA is expected to be adopted by a number of other North Sea contractors as the requirement for safer practice increases. JFD has also attracted interest from overseas customers who are recognising the benefits the system offers.