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Castles in the sea could protect staff.

Ideas man Mike Watchorn could be forgiven yesterday for feeling like the king of the castle.

Mike, engineering director of The Engineering Business, watched as his brainchild was demonstrated to representatives from offshore wind energy players at South Tyneside College's testing tank in South Shields.

Mike's idea was inspired by bouncy castles - and as a father of four he has had plenty of experience of those.

A major problem of commissioning and maintaining offshore turbines is getting men from a small boat on to the machines.

"If you fall off the ladder on the turbines, you end up in the water and if you fall between the boat and the turbine you could be crushed," said Mike, who lives at High Mickley in Northumberland.

Mike's solution was to develop a bouncy castle-style bridge made from PVC-impregnated cloth.

The eight-metre-long bridge folds up into a one-metre package on the boat. Once the turbine has been reached, the boat backs off and attaches ropes to the machine.

The bridge is then inflated along the ropes, rather like a curtain rail.

Sides and netting prevent people falling off during transit.

"It is a very rigid structure, there are no hydraulics or controls, it is robust and it can float," said Mike.

"We are hoping it can be used in weather conditions where at present you can't get access." The bridge could be used in the offshore oil and gas industries as well as harbours.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 21, 2004
Words:241
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