PALFINGER MARINE has always taken pride in being a customer-centric provider of complete marine solutions and services. It therefore goes without saying that we are always open to special requests. This is the story of how our colleagues in the US successfully rose to an unusual challenge and recently returned a fully refitted diving bell. We sat down for a chat with Louisiana-based Sales & Operations Manager Donavan Olivier.

Donavan, thank you for taking time for us. Performing maintenance on a diving bell is a very unusual project for PALFINGER MARINE. Could you provide us with some background on how it came about?

We already had an excellent, longstanding relationship with the customer in question. As a subsea engineering and applied technology specialist, they operate numerous diving support vessels that require lifeboats. 90 percent of their onboard equipment is supplied by a PALFINGER brand and therefore regularly serviced by us. The customer has always been highly satisfied with the maintenance work we performed on their lifeboats, so we were naturally their first choice when they were looking for someone to reapply a deteriorating fiberglass shell of one of their diving bells. We love a good challenge!

What is a diving bell? And what kind of service does it require?

A diving bell is basically a fiberglass capsule that allows divers to descend to significant water depths. With a height of 3 meters (10 feet) and a diameter of 2.4 meters (8 feet), it offers sufficient space for three people. The diving bell is used for exploration, testing, and pipeline repairs, and more. Safety is paramount in these circumstances, which makes maintenance even more important. We were asked to remove and reapply the entire fiberglass shell, which had been deteriorating for some time. Our experience with very similar materials used for our lifeboats allowed us to go the extra mile for our customer.

Person standing on a ladder in workwear performing work on a diving bell, which is positioned in a big workshop.

After initial depths checks and a cosmetic review, our experienced service engineers removed the original fiberglass exterior of the diving bell. Multiple layers of fibergrlass had to be reapplied.

What specific challenges did you encounter during the project?

A lifeboat is designed to float, while a diving bell is designed to operate below the water surface. That is the most obvious difference. So, the shell of a diving bell needs to withstand high pressure and prevent water intrusion through the seams. Removing the original fiberglass exterior proved to be quite tedious, as we had to avoid damaging the insulating, temperature-regulating foam beneath. The fact that such a diving bell is equipped with multiple layers of fiberglass made the job more time-consuming. We then ran initial depth checks and conducted a cosmetic review of sorts. The diving bell is now ready to undergo final testing by the customer.

PALFINGER MARINE is best known for providing exemplary service for our own line of products. Is this diving bell refurbishment project a one-off exception?

When a customer needs help, we always strive to meet their demands. We are more than capable of providing service expertise beyond our product range. For example, we offer load tests for baskets, cradles, cranes, and more. Nevertheless, the diving bell project was an atypical exception. One of the more memorable one-of-a-kind projects was a fiberglass repair and repainting of a fishing boat. Before starting the diving bell project, our technical manager and I paid a personal visit to the customer to discuss the essentials and evaluate the scope.

We guarantee service excellence, so it was important to ensure that we are fully capable of meeting highest demands.

Donavan Olivier, Sales and Operations Manager at PALFINGER MARINE

Can we expect more of these exceptional service projects in the future?

Projects like the diving bell refurbishment could open the door to similar commissions. We always welcome challenges and opportunities to look beyond our own product lines in terms of service. Nothing makes us happier than making our customers happy.

PALFINGER MARINE has proven once more that we are willing and able to exceed customer expectations. Every challenge is an opportunity, and we will be sharing all these exciting projects with you right here. In a time of accelerated change, we strive to shape the future with our customers. Together, we can  #reachanything.

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