Technology Enhances Safety, Provides Communications Solution for Serco Limited

WRENTHAM, Suffolk, England – 6 March 2013 — Fern Communications Ltd, a leading provider of two-way radio communications systems to the international maritime and upstream oil and gas industries, today announced that its FRX-1 radio repeater is now being used to enhance radio communications during essential fuel tank and bilge cleaning operations carried out on all Royal Navy vessels by Serco.

Serco, which operates tugs and barges at Royal Navy docks in Portsmouth, Devonport, Greenock and Faslane (The Clyde) in the UK, purchased the FRX-1 radio repeater as part of its standard suite of radio communications equipment following a successful field trial at the Devonport Naval Base in Plymouth.

Radio signal maintained onboard HMS Argyll

“Due to the steel structure of the ships and the confined spaces in which the crews work, we found that radio signals broke down constantly.  This meant that our cleaning crews working in the fuel tank and their co-workers located on the support barge could not communicate with each other effectively, said Jim Morrison, Tank Cleaning Lighter Chief Engineer for Serco.  “When the FRX-1 was placed mid-ship onboard the HMS Argyll frigate, we were dubious.  Fortunately, the system helped maintain the signal, and radio communications between the two teams are now greatly improved.  This innovative solution enables us to continue to deliver an excellent standard of service to the MoD,” he added.

By strategically positioning the FRX-1 on the ship, radio signals were able to travel from the radio used by the crew member located inside the fuel tank around thick steel structures to the radio operated by the crew member on the support barge.  Throughout the demonstration, radio communications were successfully maintained.

operations in Plymouth, Serco is currently in discussions with Fern Communications about the purchase of a second system for use while cleaning fuel tanks on vessels at the Royal Navy docks in Portsmouth.

Reliable Radio Communications

The first portable radio repeater in the oil industry, the FRX-1 fills a gap in the market for a system that provides consistent, uninterrupted radio communication.  Reliable radio communications are critical to the safe and efficient delivery of well services, especially offshore.  Unfortunately, standard radio systems are extremely vulnerable to ‘black spots.’   Typically, these are solid structures that make up the platform and block radio signals, making it impossible for the targeted receiving radio to receive the signal.  The upshot is that radio communications consistently break down in certain areas.  In an effort to solve this problem, Fern Communications developed the FRX-1 radio repeater.  Today, it is the only system of its kind that effectively bends the radio signal around a solid structure so that it reaches its target destination: the receiving radio located on the other side of the structure.  For the first time, two-way radio communication is truly reliable, which bodes well for improving productivity, and enhancing health and safety standards.

To ensure that the FRX-1 can be used in a broad range of environments, the system is approved for use by the European Union in hazardous Zones 1 and 2, gas group 11C and temperature-rated to T5, all in accordance with ATEX Directive 94/9/EC, the set of rigorous standards aimed at preventing explosions, and protecting people in the event of an explosion.  Because the RF section of the FRX-1 has both EU and FCC approval, it can be used in North America, Europe and most oil-producing regions.  It is also ingress-protected to IP66, which makes it dust-tight and protected against powerful water jets and water dispersed by heavy seas. 

Lightweight System Highly Compatible

The portable FRX-1 operates on VHF, marine and UHF frequencies, meaning that it is fully compatible with existing radio communications systems currently in use offshore.  The four-position channel switch makes it possible to select one of four frequencies, which is very useful at busy sites where frequencies are often shared.  Using CTCSS and DCS, users can also share frequencies with other radio users in privacy.  The output power can be set to between one and five watts, depending on the country and site owner’s specifications.

Weighing just 14kg, the FRX-1 is lightweight and extremely compact so that it can be easily used and positioned on platforms, rigs and FPSOs. The system’s high capacity Li-lon battery means that the FRX-1 can operate for more than 18 hours before it must be charged.  For continual use, auxiliary batteries are available.

Available for Purchase or Hire

The Fern Communications FRX-1 Portable Radio Repeater and two-way radio systems are available for purchase or hire from Fern Communications and in-country distributors.  Further specifications and pricing information may be obtained by contacting Fern Communications at or

About Fern Communications Ltd

Fern Communications Ltd specialises in the design and manufacture of two-way radio communications systems for the international upstream oil and gas industries.

Established in 2002, Fern Communications was co-founded by Managing Director Jennifer Cushion, an Australian electronics engineer, and Technical Director Clive Cushion, a British industrial product designer. Together, the two offer 40 years of collective experience in the radio communications industry. Today, Fern Communications is known as one of the UK’s leading suppliers of radio communications systems to the emergency services sector and the international energy industry. The company operates from bases in Aberdeen, Scotland and Wrentham, England.

With a strong customer base in the United Kingdom, Fern Communications also exports its systems worldwide to oil services companies in the United States, Kazakhstan, Iran, Sweden, The Netherlands, Qatar, Nigeria, Angola, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Ukraine, Poland, Brunei and Hong Kong, among others. Emergency services organisations in Taiwan, the United Kingdom and Norway use the company’s radio repeater systems as a standard part of their communications systems. Fern Communications’ customers use the company’s state-of-the-art radio communications technology to provide a safer working environment for their employees.

For further information, contact:

Jennifer Cushion, Managing Director, Fern Communications Ltd, Wrentham, Suffolk, England

Tel: +44 (0)1502 676 045, Email:, Website:


Sharon Roe, Spinnaker Communications, St Andrews, Scotland, United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)l334 473 754, Email: