Hi Mike, can you tell us a bit about the work we’re doing at Monkstone Lighthouse?

Mike: Our work involved the upgrading the station aids to navigation and their control systems to current Trinity House standards.

We identified Monkstone Lighthouse’s requirement for re-engineering based on the risk of increasing maintenance needed to support ageing equipment and supply issues resulting from supporting obsolescent equipment. Making use of modern technology and standardised equipment means that the station’s navigational requirements are delivered, maintaining the original light range with a reduction in power consumption and simplified maintenance needs.

Monkstone Lighthouse IMG_3300.jpg

Why does Monkstone Lighthouse need modernising?
Mike: The aim of the project was to completely re-engineer the station—solarised in 1983—to current service standards, fitting equipment that will extend the life of the station for a further 20 years with a minimum maintenance commitment. This included fitting a solar power system that supports a main and standby 12NM LED light that will reduce the urgency to respond to a main light failure.

We have also installed standardised system monitoring technology that reports back over a radio system to the Planning Centre at Harwich, who can then control the navigation light function.

The project team also considered current maintenance issues, working on a solution to improve access to and replacement of solar power modules; we devised a solution that lowered the modules to a working height—ensuring sufficient solar gain all year—that has provided safe working access to the modules.

Monkstone is in the Bristol Channel, what difficulties do you come across while working on a station such as this one?
Mike: Monkstone is a small but challenging station that is very tight on space, both internally and externally. This is not one of those walk-up-to-the-front-door locations. Logistically it is challenging; no luxury of helicopter underslung loads or unloading a van here.

This is not one of those walk-up-to-the-front-door locations. Logistically it is challenging.

At low water the stone tower is some 16 metres high and is located on an isolated rock. Mounted on this is a GRP cylindrical tower giving a focal plane of some 23 metres, a deceptively tall structure, given that we’re dealing with one of the UK’s largest rise and fall of tide; at times some 11 metres in range, running at 4.5 to 5 knots.

All equipment and materials were transferred by hand via an inflatable boat and hand winched up the tower. Heavier items required the use of MV Mair’s crane on a suitable slack water high tide; this work was time restrictive benefiting from the crew of Mair’s local knowledge.

Considering the project requirements and deployment of resource that would be involved, we combined Field Operations’ Schedule 1 complete painting of the station within the project phasing.

It was apparent that with the limited site space for the intended works it would be necessary to shut down the navigational light for the duration of the works. With the Navigation Department’s approval, we agreed the establishment of two temporary lighted Type 2 buoys, as defined by Examiners, close to the lighthouse for the duration of the works.

Who has been working on the project and where do they stay while working on Monkstone?
Mike: When you reflect on the project process it is surprising how many people have been involved during the project lifecycle.

From the mandate, the early days saw the project team building the project through its various stages through the brief and PID phases, then to the design, CDM, safety, risk, costing, planning and procurement considerations.

In brief, the site phases included the preparation and deployment of the buoys by Swansea Buoy Yard, Marine Operations and THV Galatea; erecting and later removing the scaffold, Field Operations to complete Scheduled painting and carry out the installation requirements, daily on-site support and welfare facilities being provided by MV Mair, commissioning, quality assurance, Examiners’ viewing and—finally—removal of the temporary buoys, leaving the station fully operational for the handover back to Field Operations.

In line with the project schedule of works, daily on-site tasks were coordinated and controlled by our site supervisor Jeff Bloffwitch with support from the project team including Jamie Hammond, Chris Harbour and Chris Wroe as necessary. Stuart Mason organised and controlled the painting phase of the lighthouse with Peter Binding and his team on board MV Mair providing daily transport from/to Barry Island where the team were staying in local accommodation.

MV Mair DSCF7308.jpg

This article originally appeared in Flash journal #26 Spring 2017