A day in the life of... David Melville, cable engineer, Global Marine Systems
apr-may-2012-day-in-the-life-david-melville.jpg Q: Can you describe a typical working day as a cable engineer?
A: A typical working day differs greatly depending on whether the ship is in port or out at sea. When in port, standby duties revolve around shipboard and departmental routines. We need to ensure that our equipment is functioning, calibrated and there are no issues with any individual item. Therefore on a monthly basis a rotation is conducted through all the equipment to ensure it’s working correctly.
At sea, when we sail for a repair or installation, our daily life changes and the reasons for the monthly routines of equipment become obvious. We need to have confidence in our equipment as we will rely on it over the days ahead.
We work a 12-hour shift rotation on operations and each team member knows exactly what is expected of them. Some of the procedures involve testing fibres, analysing X-rays after the joint has been moulded, applying high voltage to the cable system and compiling daily reports.
Q: Is travel a real perk of the job?
A: The most rewarding aspect of the job must be the various countries we have visited all over the world. On the very odd occasion we end up in a country for several weeks, which is when we get a real chance to explore. Puerto Rico, Shanghai, Saigon and Singapore have been personal highlights of mine over the years.
Q: What has been your most dangerous experience as a cable engineer?
A: During a repair operation in the Singapore Straits in 2007, we were repairing a customer’s cable when a large tanker was observed moving very quickly astern of our position. It became obvious it was not holding station and was struggling to start its engines.
Shortly afterwards the tanker started to swing towards us on the current, the alarm was raised and all personnel mustered. The tanker hit us broadside and thanks to some very quick thinking by one of the engine drivers, who let the anchor wires run slack, we avoided a potentially dangerous situation.
Q: What role does the weather play in your line of work?
A: The weather basically determines if we can work or not. In certain conditions it is unsafe for the vessel or the remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) to operate; both have safe working parameters which must be observed. We need to ensure the operation is completed quickly, but safety is paramount.
Q: How might your role evolve?
A: The role has already evolved into survey work for a lot of cable engineers within Global Marine. The two roles are closely matched in that planning, data gathering and processing are common to both, so bridging the gap between the two skills was not as daunting as expected.
Technology is changing all the time and it may not be long before many more cable systems are installed. The demand for bandwidth and the internet is growing daily, so the needs must be met somehow.