30,000 Bags of Potential…

Posted in Air lift bags, Underwater air lift bags on October 29, 2013 by Seaflex

It may not look like much, but this 50kg parachute-style air lift bag represents a significant milestone for UK buoyancy and ballast specialist Unique Seaflex.
Air lift bag number 30,000 from Seaflex

Destined to be part of a spread of air lift bags supplied on hire to Bibby Offshore for their North Sea operations, this bag carries the serial number 30,000 – a landmark in the 26-year history of the Isle of Wight based manufacturer.

Air Bag Roots

It is also in fact a case of return to roots for Seaflex, as when established as something of a cottage industry back in 1987 in a partitioned-off corner of an old boatbuilding shed, bags of this size were the core business – and the largest bag produced offered only 500kg of uplift.

In 2013, the largest bag produced at Seaflex’s purpose-built Cowes facility comes in at 50t -1000 times the capacity of this modest-looking 50kg bag.

Global Success

Mark Board, the now-retired founder of Seaflex, commented “When I started out 26 years ago I could hardly imagine the global success story that Seaflex would become today – and supplying the 30,000th bag is tribute to the hard work and dedication of everyone who has worked in the business over this time.”

60,000th Air Lift Bag?

“Seaflex owes a debt of honour to their many thousands of customers past and present, who have taken them to this notable milestone.  With the business going through a period of significant worldwide growth, we expect Seaflex to be supplying their 60,000th bag into the market a whole lot sooner than the year 2039.” added Harry Ghandi, CEO of the Unique Maritime Group – longtime Middle Eastern representatives of Seaflex, and owners of the business since 2011.

New Partner for the Netherlands

Posted in Air lift bags, Load test weights, Underwater air lift bags, Water filled load test weights on August 8, 2013 by Seaflex

Seaflex is pleased to announce the appointment of Robin Jansen of P.C. Marine Agencies BV as our new stockholding ballast agent for the Netherlands market.

Robin Jansen with Ballast Stock

Robin is now stocking Seaflex WaterLoad bags along with load shackles, as well as Seaflex Lifeboat Testing kits, at his Groningen facility – ready for immediate despatch to meet urgent customer requirements.  Robin will also be representing Seaflex’s market-leading range of buoyancy bags and associated installation aids within his home market.

You can visit Robin and Seaflex  on Stand 11.011 at the upcoming Offshore Energy exhibition at the Amsterdam RAI on October 15th & 16th.

Cowes Week

Posted in Isle of Wight, SeaMark Buoys on August 1, 2013 by Seaflex

3rd – 10th August 2013

Cowes Week is one of the longest running and largest sailing regattas in the world. With 40 races each day, up to 1,000 boats and 8,500 competitors from Olympic champions to weekend sailors, it marks the peak of the racing and sailing social calendar.


Start/finish line at Cowes Week

Seaflex’s QHSE Manager, Ian Margham, will be racing during the week and with Seaflex providing the turning marks as well as the start and finish buoys off the Royal Yacht Squadron, he will find himself meeting a number of the company’s SeaMark inflatable buoys.

All races start from the Royal Yacht Squadron at the mouth of the very busy Cowes River, with ferries, freighters, oil tankers and cruise liners following the channel along the Solent, as well as hundreds (and hundreds!) of yachts. This can lead to some very near misses as wa shown in 2011 when a yacht was dismasted by an oil tanker.

Most of the time the event runs like clockwordk, but then it has been running since 1826, so they’ve had plenty of practice.

The event sponsors, Aberdeen Asset Management, have all the racing and social events on their website:

Round the Island Race

Posted in Isle of Wight with tags , , , , on June 3, 2013 by Seaflex

The Round the Island Race is an annual event held  in June and is a major part of the rich sailing tradition of the Isle of Wight. Sponsoring the event this year was JP Morgan Asset Management.

Round the Island Race

Rounding the Needles Photo by Patrick Eden – http://www.patrickeden.co.uk

Now in its 82nd year over 1,400 yachts and around 16,000 sailors take part making it one of the largest yacht races in the world – and the fourth largest participation sporting event in the UK.

Competitors come from all over the UK, Europe, the USA and around the world to sail the 50 nautical mile course around the Isle of Wight, starting and finishing at Cowes.  Most boats take hours to finish the course, but the record set by the professional sailors is 3hrs 53mins 05secs for a monohull, set by Mike Slade on ICAP Leopard in 2008, and 3hrs 08mins 29secs for a multihull boat set by Francis Joyon in 2001.

A Record Breaking Day

At least that was the case until this year’s event on Saturday 1st June. UK sailor Ben Ainslie, winner of four Olympic golds, knocked 16 mins and 14 secs off Francis Joyon’s 2001 record with a time of 2hr 52min 15sec on a 45-foot wing-powered catamaran, imaginatively named “AC45 JP Morgan BAR”.

Round the Island Race 2013

‘Back of the Wight’ – Photo by Patrick Eden – http://www.patrickeden.co.uk

Then Mike Slade, on the 100-foot yacht “Leopard”, broke his own monohull record by 9 minutes 45 seconds in a time of 3hr 43min 50sec.

With Seaflex based in Cowes at the heart of the event, it’s not surprising that some of the team would be involved. This year the company was represented by Business Development Manager, Ben Board sailing on ‘Skibereen’ – a Fastnet 34 sloop built in 1975. Ben and his crew finished a creditable 289th out of nearly 1,500 competitors, even though Ben insists, “We’re not serious racers . . .”

Laying Underwater Pipelines and Cables

Posted in Air lift bags, inflatable buoyancy units on March 4, 2013 by Seaflex

Laying underwater pipelines and cables is fraught with difficulty and would be almost impossible without the use of buoyancy bags. Buoyancy aids make the process of moving and laying underwater objects a much simpler process through the use of a relatively simple technology based on a simple concept.


IBUs used for pipeline buoyancy

The ‘Overpressure’ Principle

Inflatable buoyancy aids are made from flexible materials and become squashed under pressure but expand as pressure decreases. They work on the principle of overpressure. As the bag is lowered deeper into the water, it decreases in volume because the air inside gets compressed and occupies less volume.

On the other hand, as it is raised the air expands and the volume of the bag increases. Buoyancy is equal to the mass of the water displaced by the bag, which is proportional to the volume of the bag. It follows, therefore, that buoyancy decreases as a bag is lowered deeper into the water and increases as it rises up. Using an air hose attached to the bag, more air can be pumped into it whilst in a compressed state. Then as the bag is raised it expands in volume quickly and a huge amount of buoyancy is created. Even a small buoyancy aid can easily lift a weight equivalent to five family cars.

ALBs and ILBs

The two basic types of buoyancy units are ALBs (Air Lifting Bags) and ILBs (Inflatable Buoyancy Units). ALBs are used in operations such as cable floatation where an object needs lifting from the sea bed. They have just one point of attachment, which means that they will remain upright at all times and can be used at any depth. ILBs are used to increase, for example, pipeline buoyancy close to the surface or the buoyancy of any static object just under the water. They cannot be used at great depths and have multiple points of attachment.

Generally, ALBs are the only option when salvaging a vessel or lifting a cable or pipeline deep under water. If an object such as a pontoon or a section of pipeline that is waiting to be laid needs to be floated on the surface of the water, then ILBs are the correct choice. However, there are many complications when working underwater and the choice is not always so simple so it is well worth consulting the experts before starting any work.

Static Load Testing

Posted in Load test weights, Water filled weights on December 18, 2012 by Seaflex

Static load testing is an essential part of many engineering, building and manufacturing projects. Failure of any load-bearing component, material or structure can endanger lives and cause enormous economic loss. This is why loads and weights must be calculated and tested accurately. Of course, the testing of large or heavy parts requires the use of special equipment.

Water filled load test weights

Static load testing a crane beam

Water Filled Weights

Water filled weights (also known as ballast bags) provide a very flexible method for load testing. Test weights must be sufficiently heavy to ascertain the maximum load of an object, but they should also be reusable and safe to deploy in a test environment. Hard-filled weights are suitable in many tests, but on the largest scale, water-filled weights provide an ideal solution. When empty they weigh just a small fraction of the filled weight so are easy to transport. In use they can be part-filled for any exacting requirements, or used in combination.

Once filled with water these specially constructed bags can weigh anything from 1,000 Kg to 35,000 Kg, ensuring that objects such as structural beams and crane arms can be tested for durability under extreme loads. Objects can be tested in various ways, for example, test weights might be attached to the centre of a steel arch to ascertain load capacity before being (vertically) affixed to one end to test tensile strength. Understanding how components, parts or materials behave under extreme loads in different positions can help engineers create safer, more powerful systems.

Although capable of being used almost anywhere, water-filled weights are often deployed in docks to ensure that parts can be tested without fear of causing structural damage (failed components and the weights attached to them can simply fall into the water). To ensure that materials are tested accurately, the risk of cable failure is reduced by the inclusion of telemetry dual-load shackles and tensile load cells.

For more information see Water Filled Weights.

Air Lift Bags for Marine Salvage

Posted in marine salvage, Underwater air lift bags on November 8, 2012 by Seaflex
Open bottom air lift bag

Open bottom air lift bag commonly used for marine salvage

Marine salvage involves recovering a ship and/or its cargo from the seabed following a shipwreck or other maritime accident. Obviously, ships and cargo are heavy objects which cannot be recovered without specialist equipment and knowledge.

Underwater air lifting bags are specifically designed for the recovery of underwater objects that need lifting to the surface. They can also be used as static buoyancy in underwater engineering as they only need a single attachment point and are stable and easy to handle underwater.

Air Lift Bags

Air lifting bags are available in various designs and capacities, so that salvage operators can choose the appropriate level of buoyancy required to lift objects in a controlled fashion. For recovering heavy objects, such as a ship, multiple bags will be necessary to provide a balanced and controlled lift. This is important as objects that are lifted too quickly can reach the surface out of control, posing a risk to the operators and the vessel being salvaged.

Closed or Open?

There are two basic types of lifting bag:

  • Closed air lifting bags typically include a safety valve that allows air to be released for a steady, controlled ascent.
  • Open bottomed air lift bags work differently as their open bottom allows expanding air to vent freely during an ascent to the surface as pressure decreases.

For this reason, and the ease of handling, open bottomed air lift bags are usually the preferred choice for marine salvage. Their strength, ease of use underwater and predictable behaviour make them the most effective and safest option for most marine lifting operations.

Jean Ricciardi

Salvage of the Jean Ricciardi

When the trawler Jean Riccardi suffered a power failure, flooded and sank near the port of Sete, on the French Mediterranean coast, twelve open bottom air lift bags, capable of lifting 20 tonnes each, were used to complete the salvage operation quickly and safely.