Shining bright steel cylinders with glass and windscreen-wipers at one end – you see them everywhere in the North Sea and on a number of oil installations elsewhere in the world.
We are talking about surveillance camera systems, or so-called closed-circuit TV (CCTV) supplied by Hernis Scan Systems AS from Hisøy near Arendal. The company was formed as early as 1982, and two years later had its first camera system ready for marketing.
However, like so many others, Hernis suffered from the hard times at the end of the 1980s. In 1989 new players came in from the UK, and since then the company has been British-owned. Hernis is currently part of the video technology division of the Visilink group, employs about 60 staff and has a turnover of around NOK 80 million.
Hernis enjoys total dominance of deliveries of CCTV equipment to the Norwegian sector of the North Sea, with a market share of 95%.
“We are also seeing a much increased market in the North Sea as remote surveillance and unmanned platforms become more common. The fibre-optic broadband link between Kollsnes and Troll A, with links on to several other platforms, is only the beginning,” says CEO Egil Norman Olsen.
But even if the home market is the biggest single market, 80% of Hernis’ sales go to export. This is related inter alia to the fact that Hernis does not confine itself to offshore and onshore petroleum industry, but has shipboard installations as an important field.
“Korean shipyards have long been important customers. We are currently enjoying bulging order-books from that direction”, says Sales Director Bjørn R. Saltermark, whose customer list includes more than fifty shipyards in 16 countries.
“Our strategy from here on is to keep hold of our traditional markets. In addition, however, in recent years we have also turned to the cruise ship market, and recently signed a contract with Royal Caribbean Cruise Liners. This contract is for two of their new ships, worth NOK 8.5 million, and with an option on another four. There are around 60 cruise liners on order around the world,” says Saltermark, “and we want to fight for the right to supply more of these.”
Some of these deliveries involve different technical requirements, for example the design of the camera unit itself. Indoor surveillance does not need watertight capsules of top-notch steel qualities, nor the same explosion requirements as on board production platforms.
Hernis is continuously evaluating possible new materials for incapsulation of the cameras, inter alia different kinds of composite.
Saltermark also describes how Hernis to a great extent is collaborating with other companies in the district, inter alia in connection with Hitec’s operator centre for remote-controlled drilling-
“It is also important for us to follow existing customers out into the world, as for example Statoil to their operations in China and the Caspian Sea. The same goes for system customers such as Kongsberg Simrad, Siemens, ABB, Foxboro et al.”
One of Hernis’ more spectacular installations is the deliveries to the Sea Launch platform. Launch of orbital vehicles from this floating spaceport is totally remote-controlled from the operating-centre vessel several nautical miles away. This would not have been possible without the 40 monitor cameras from Hernis, of which some are broadcasting quality. The transmission to the control vessel is by radio line over six digital channels.
From analog to digital
Hernis has dozens of engineers at work on continuous development of the products. The latest leaf on the tree is System 400, an open system based on Windows NT.
“Up to now our cameras have been by and large connected to the central monitoring unit via a RS-232 interface,” says Technical Director Roy Thorkeldsen. “As time goes on it is becoming more and more common to communicate by cameras over a local area network (LAN). Video over LAN is a particularly exciting development. We are leaving the analog for the digital world at speed; it is true that most of the cameras are still analog, but cheap digital camera units are just around the corner. It is only a question of time before our systems are wholly digital.”