January 06, 2010

The Kaselehlie Press

Pohnpei, FSM-The Reliance class vessel the Durable owned by Tyco Electronics made a stop in Pohnpei on the 29th of December in order to clear customs and immigration before continuing to run a fiber optic cable through the FSM's Exclusive Economic Zone. The long touted and anxiously awaited cable has spurs to the Marshall Islands and to the FSM. Both countries have found it possible to gain from the needs of the Kwajalein missile base for high speed communications.

The Durable will pick up the line run last month into Pohnpei's harbor at a point approximately 90 nautical miles north of Pohnpei. It will continue that line out to sea to connect with the line which has already been run from Majuro, and Kwajalein and then will continue the line West to Guam. Assuming that there are no complications that fiber optic line will reach Guam by the 21st of January.

After the line is "lit up" or made active, the communications bandwidth available to the FSM will increase dramatically in all of the states.

Before the Durable reached Pohnpei's port on the 29th of December the company made arrangements to invite eight people from the FSM to tour the high tech cable laying vessel. Included in the tour were FSM Vice President Alik Alik, Pohnpei's Lt. Governor Churchill Edward, FSM Secretary for Transportation, Communication, and Infrastructure Frances Itimai, FSM Telecommunications Chief Operating Officer John Sohl, FSMTC Plant and Engineering Department Manager, Joe Johnny, Pohnpei Port Authority Marketing Manager Pius Roby, and Kaselehlie Press Managing Editor Bill Jaynes. Iso Nahnken of U, Ihlen Joseph was invited as well but had a commitment to Pohnpei Traditional Leaders that precluded his attendance.

The tour was conducted by Captain Alan Smith, Commander of the vessel.

The vessel stores its cable in cable tanks. It has a capacity of 4000 nautical miles of cable of which there are four types aboard, double armor, single armor, special purpose application and light weight. The various types of cable are used as the ocean bottom conditions and depth of water dictate.

The vessel itself is 139 meters in length and 21 meters wide. Rather than the propellers that commercial freighters use to propel themselves through the water, the Durable has four thrusters, two of which can rotate 360 degrees. It allows the vessel incredible maneuverability which is necessary for the task of laying cable. The ship can turn completely around in its radius of only 69.5 meters. The ship can "hold station," or stand still in the ocean, in winds as high as 65 knots.

There are 60 crew members working aboard the Durable which is one of six vessels of its class owned by Tyco Electronics. The company also owns two other smaller vessels. One of those vessels was in Pohnpei last month and brought the cable spur to shore. Tyco's 6 Reliance class vessels, including the Durable currently operate all over the world including the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, the East and West Coasts of the United States, and the equatorial and western Pacific.

Head Splicer Lyle Davis demonstrated how fiber optic cables are spliced using a computerized process. Every splice in a cable used for communication purposes creates some signal loss. The demonstration splice Davis made during the tour was estimated to have caused only .01 decibels of signal loss. Losses of .1 decibels and above are rejected.

The company places a signal amplifier every 120 kilometers. When the amplifiers are being spliced into the line the ship slows to a knot and a half. According to Chief Engineer Salvador "Sal" Vela, cable is fed from the tanks on Linear Cable engines with a 16 ton capacity and a maximum speed of 8 knots. If more weight capacity is needed the crew makes use of one of two Cable Drum Engines located port and starboard each of which has a thirty ton capacity.

The bridge is a computerized highly technical marvel. The ship is powered electrically and has several generators aboard to supply the power needed.

The ship was only in port for one night and departed at 11:00 on the 30th of December. While they were in Pohnpei some members of the crew were allowed shore leave to explore what Pohnpei night life there was to experience on that holiday evening.

"I hope to return to the island some day," said Chief Mate Kevin Plunkett. "It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been."

Captain Smith, an American who has lived in South America for approximately 20 years told Vice President Alik that he also hoped to return to Pohnpei for a vacation with his wife and son. While he was here he said that though his daylight time on island was limited he hoped to get a chance to sample Pohnpei's world famous surfing.