Maintenance in operational condition of hyperbaric installations






9 Dec, 2021



Dec 9, 2021 | News

The Maintenance in Operational Condition (MCO) are the measures taken to guarantee breakdowns’ diagnosis and defective parts’ replacement, ensure conformity, modernization and treatment of the obsolescences, as well as crew training and documentation supply, within the framework of a continuous production.

Aim of a maintenance in operational condition

In industrial, medical, systems and controlled pressure solutions (hyperbaric, hypobaric) environments, Operational Condition Maintenance consists of ensuring the functioning and performance of equipment during the entire operating phase. This includes all the resources required to keep equipment in a state of readiness to meet the demands made on it, while ensuring maintenance, replacement of parts, compliance and compliance with the regulatory inspections required by ministerial decrees. Products and systems have a limited lifespan. Their use subjects them to breakdowns, replacement of parts, aging obsolescence, wear and tear and new constraints: technological advances, regulatory standards, preventive renewal of consumables.

Comex has just successfully completed the regulatory requalification as well as a series of modernization of the 500-meter diving simulator “CHM500” composed of 4 hyperbaric systems located in Toulon naval base.

To talk about it, we have chosen to interview our project manager.

Emmanuelle Dubois, project manager at COMEX SA gives us an insight of this demanding project :

Hello Emmanuelle, can you introduce yourself?

Emmanuelle Dubois, project manager at Comex SA in charge of the MCO of hyperbaric chambers for the French Navy.

An important step for this contract renewal has just been completed, can you tell us more?

Yes indeed, with the end of the CHM500’s requalification, we’ve completed an important step in the 5-years contract with the French Navy. This is the R120, the mandatory 120 months (10 years) regulatory requalification every 120 months (10 years). During this requalification, the 3 dry and the 1 wet enclosures are dismantled in order to check, test and clean each component. Each component which is dismantled, cleaned and tested. This requalification is validated by the realization of a hydraulic test for each enclosure at a pressure equal to 1.5 times the service pressure (i.e. 75bars). Following these tests, the center is requalified by a certifying body, then by the French Navy itself, and this, for 10 years.

The opportunity to expose the center also allows us to carry out improvement requests formulated upstream by the customer, to which we have offered solutions that have been accepted.

With regard to these improvements that have been made, can you tell us a little more about them?

Without going into details, we can however talk about :

    • Creation of a mobile analysis bay located next to the supervision desk, allowing a simultaneous report of the oxygen and CO2 concentration in each enclosure.
    • Modernization of an existing high pressure air distribution panel
    • Modernization of the communication networks in the dry chambers under pressure (50 Bars) and outside at atmospheric pressure
    • Addition of a hydrophone and laryngophone for divers in the wet chamber (called wet tank) and the Turret (chamber allowing the transition between the dry chambers known as “life” and the Wet tank)
    • Renovation of the interior paintings of the wet tank and the turret in adequation with the environment.
      Problems are diverse, 2 can be cited:
          • Issues related to the presence of a gaseous sky composed of Helium, which, with the speeds of compression and decompression, creates fine particles which, by bubbling effect take off the paint on the walls,
          • Problems related to the VOCs released by the paint in the hyperbaric and gaseous environment.

What is the “plus” provided by Comex in this type of service?

Despite the client’s hight level of specifications from the customer, Comex, with its 60 years long of experience in the hyperbarics field, is always able to come up with solutions. Thanks to the increased knowledge of the system, COMEX knows how to adapt and reinvent itself. This allows us to respond quickly and adapt to improvement issues in terms of safety as well as obsolescence treatment and staff comfort.

What happens next in this contract? This contract runs for another 3.5 years and concerns the maintenance in operational condition of 32 chambers (chambers on board ships, onshore chambers, experimental chambers and diving school‘s chambers for diving schools). In addition to the visits to be carried out within the regulatory framework, preventive maintenance, replacement of consumables, curative maintenance (treatment of damage) and continuous improvement (obsolescence and proposals for improvement) are and will continue to be carried out.

What do you personally remember?

Due to the health situation during which this requalification took place, the initial deadlines were extended and this stage only took almost a year! However, the result is positive. The requalification was completed and the new equipment was put into service. Even if the latter required some readjustments (apprehension of the new technologies), we were able to concretize these projects.

On a more personal note, having been at Comex for only 2 years with a period of confinement in the middle, I remember the team spirit at Comex, a solidarity and involvement that I have never felt elsewhere. Over and above the service that has to be provided, everyone is committed in to making sure that “it works” and to being there, present at every stage to support, repair, train or even alert us if necessary. I am certainly responsible for this project, but it is feasible and achievable thanks to the involvement of all the actors in the COMEX company.

Did you encounter any difficulties in integrating into your new professional environment?

For my part, I had no problems integrating. I was very well received, whether with my counterparts on the client side or in the field (ships, test center, etc.). The French Navy advocates, applies and conveys the so-called “basic” values, of which respect is one.

There are very few women in engineering, what do you think can be done to correct this?

The technical engineering professions remain little known or little valued for women. However, women do very well and are often well integrated into the workforce. The promotion of these professions through fairs and forums must continue to exist. I think that testimonies with a female presence to represent these professions, starting in the final year of high school, should be made to allow our future generations to visualize the extent of the possibilities and why not create new vocations and break the old clichés that are still a little too present. I would like to point out that more and more women are entering this type of profession.

Thank you Emmanuelle!

A long-lasting and fruitful partnership has united COMEX and the French Navy since 2009.

Our team is in charge of the maintenance in operational conditions of about thirty hyperbaric installations on its naval bases or on board its ships and vessels.

The new contract, notified by the fleet support service, started in March 2020 and will end in March 2025. COMEX is therefore involved in all the caissons fitted to the French Navy’s ships, particularly at the Brest, Cherbourg, Toulon, Saint Mandrier and Roscanvel naval bases. The whole team is happy to finish successfully the requalification of the CHM500 diving simulator!


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