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Woolwich Ferry Wireless Condition Monitoring – in service since March 2019!

Update September 2022, 3-years on

The Phantom wireless monitoring system has been operating well for over three years now.  Our experience during this time provided us with some useful insights into what makes a remote monitoring program work so effectively;

– System integrity is key to confidence.  Monthly reports showing system integrity helped us iron out a few problems that otherwise could have resulted in a lack of confidence with the system.  For example, we found that on one vessel one gateway was regularly turned off unknowingly, making it look like an intermittent gateway failure and we deduced that one of the docking system gateways was a little too far from the enclosed sensors…killing the batteries.  We stopped the power being turned off and fitted an extender aerial to the gateway!

– Out of sight may be out of mind.  Especially for new machinery…sensors may be just sitting there seemingly doing nothing.  It is important to visualise healthy machines as much as unhealthy ones with regular traffic-light reports.

 – Maintenance personnel engagement is critical.  People come and go, refreshment training and good communications help ensure that everyone understands the importance of condition monitoring and their role in a duty of care and how alarms should be taken seriously.

– Battery replacements should be managed.  By tracking battery usage we can plan replacements to ensure performance and eradicate system downtime.  Calibrating sensors at the same time is a low cost way of making sure we get another 3 years quality sensor performance! 

Battery Level Monitoring

A Story of Success – Here’s where it all began.

There is a rich history of a ferry service across the Thames; recorded in the Domesday book 1,000 years ago and often pushing the boundaries of vessel and mooring technology over the years. In February 2019 two new hybrid ferries were put into service, along with high-tech auto mooring systems at Woolwich and North Woolwich piers.

This article introduces the wireless monitoring system implemented by CBM Partners for Transport for London and provides an update three years after implementation.

Dame Vera Lynn and Ben Woollacott ferries

Commissioned by Transport for London; marine engineering and operations specialists Briggs Marine, successfully managed the ambitious project from design, build and launch of what is one of the most significant technological achievements since 1963 when roll-on roll-off ferries were first introduced.

The two new ferries have replaced the old fleet and make the service more reliable and comfortable for customers. They have more space, cycle-specific facilities and use a quieter, low-emission engine.

The vessels were built by Polish company Remontowa and sailed to London from Poland.

The improvements contribute to the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy and support the Mayor’s goals for cleaner air and more river transport, leading to a number of benefits such as;

  • Improved reliability
  • 14% more space for passengers and vehicles – the boats can carry 150 passengers, with 210 metres for vehicles across four lanes as well as dedicated cycle spaces
  • Step-free access
  • Enhanced safety – the new vessels berth using magnetic technology, making them more stable to board and alight

The new ferries also meet London’s Low Emission Zone standards because they use a diesel-electric hybrid propulsion system. This means these boats are:

  • Fuel efficient
  • Less noisy
  • Producing fewer emissions – two filtering systems like the ones used on London buses reduce pollutants

Wireless Vibration & Temperature Monitoring

As well as being technologically advanced in terms of propulsion & mooring systems; Briggs Marine have implemented latest Predictive Maintenance technology to ensure reliability and safety.  Wireless vibration and temperature sensors have been fitted to critical equipment on the vessels and mooring systems which detect changes in machine condition early enough to find and fix faults before becoming problematic.

So condition data is collected 24/7 and presented on Briggs Marine’s control systems and smartphones;

Erbessd Instruments’ “Phantom” condition monitoring equipment specified and installed by CBM Partners Ltd provides Brigg’s personnel with proactive maintenance information such as;

  • Alarm notifications
  • Machine health dashboard
  • Live condition data capture
  • Cloud-based data analysis
The Ben Woollacott and automatic docking system

Oliver Mottershead, CBM Partners’ engineer responsible for installing the Woolwich Ferry system said of Phantom; “It makes wireless/auto condition monitoring affordable; skilled personnel can spend time analysing data rather than collecting it!  And technically it beats most other systems, hand-held or wireless; cloud-based, long battery life, long-range Bluetooth, 10kHz and with powerful analytics built-in.”

Ferry Layout
Gateway Installation

Mark Taylor, Technical & Asset Manager “We chose a modern wireless monitoring system over routine hand-held devices as part of our advanced maintenance strategy.  I know that data is being collected on all critical assets at all times and in all weathers!”. 

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