Medway Port Case Study

There are many good reasons for having an effective communication system to guide boat traffic Qil the U.K.'s busy River Medway. But the wreck of the S.S. Richard Montgomery is one of the most compelling.

Ineffective communications that produce a wrong turn and a collision with the shipwrecked S.S. Montgomery could have disastrous-even deadly-results. In August of 2006, Smye-Rumsby Ltd. and Medway Ports collaborated to replace the aging communication system Medway Ports had been using to manage boat traffic on the River Medway. They did this in part to ensure the safe passage of boats past the S.S. Richard Montgomery.

The Challenge

In August of 1944, the S.S. Richard Montgomery was travelling the River Medway, carrying cargo and munitions intended for the Allies‚ post-D-Day advance in France. But the ship ran aground on a sandbank; it broke, sank, and could not be moved.

To this day, the ship remains on that same sandbank, close to the Medway Approach Channel. Its masts are clearly visible above the water at all stages of the tide. And 1,400 tons of explosives remain in the ship's forward holds. Ineffective communications that produce a wrong turn and a collision with the shipwrecked S.S. Montgomery could have disastrous-even deadly-results.

The Radios

The system they chose for the project, and which has been functioning with great success ever since, was Zetron's DCS-5020 Radio Console System.

Medway Ports is responsible for monitoring and managing boats travelling up and down the River Medway. To do so, they employ a combination of radar and radio communications systems. For several years their communications system had been failing. The system's manufacturer had stopped supporting it even as it was becoming increasingly unreliable. In addition, the system's phones and control units took up valuable space on operators' desktops, making the area cluttered, disorganised and difficult to use. So in 2006, when funds became available, Medway Ports chose Smye-Rumsby to help them obtain and implement a new, improved communication system.

Evolving with the technology Smye-Rumsby has specialised in the design, implementation, and servicing of radio communications and marine electronics systems for almost 60 years. "My father had experience in radar during World War II," said our Managing Director, Philip Smye-Rumsby. "In 1955 we started in radio communications. Since then, we've evolved right along with the technology."

The Solution

Smye-Rumsby Ltd. was chosen for the project for a number of reasons. They had been supporting Medway Ports' communication system ever since the original manufacturer stopped doing so. In addition, Smye-Rumsby was well acquainted with the customer's goals for the new system, which were to de-clutter the desks, consolidate the system's functionality, and update the technology to an easy-to-use digital system. And Smye-Rumsby already had a system in mind that would address these goals-Zetron's DCS-5020 Radio Console System.

Previewing the DCS-5020 in action Smye-Rumsby had implemented several successful installations of the DCS 5020 at other sites prior to the Medway project. So they were able to demonstrate the DCS-5020 in action before Medway Ports purchased their system. "They were actually able to see what it was all about before they placed their order;‚ says Philip Smye-Rumsby.

The solution for Medway Ports Zetron's DCS-5020 was selected as the best solution for the project. It combines telephony and both digital Tetra and conventional analog radio control. It also provides the resiliency, reliability, and flexibility the customer was looking for in a new system. The solution implemented for Medway Ports also includes:

  • Eight monitor receivers.
  • Two remote base stations.
  • Telephone inputs.
  • Highly configurable screens.

The Outcome

Minimising resistance Changing abruptly to an entirely new system can provoke resistance from operators who must learn and use it. So Smye-Rumsby took an approach they hoped would minimise this kind of reaction.

"We had the senior operators play with the system before it went live," says Philip Smye-Rumsby. "We then fine-tuned it to their requirements. As a result, we didn't get any resistance to the system whatsoever."

The new DCS-5020 is meeting every goal the customer set for the project. Medway Ports already has plans to make some additions that the system fully supports.

"They plan to bring in the door-security system, add the ability to open the door, and bring in some of the navigational light controls so they can switch on fog horns and fog lights and such;' says Philip Smye-Rumsby. Smye-Rumsby says he's very satisfied with the project results, and so is the customer. "The system does exactly what they wanted it to," he says. "There's no question about it - they're very happy with their new DCS-5020."