An oasis of tranquillity
How Merford’s Cabins provide the ideal work space
With thousands of kilowatts of power at his control, a dredger operator plays a critical role in the dredging process. Creating the ideal working environment is crucial, especially when you consider the noise and vibration caused by the many tonnes of sand and rock passing through various pumps and pipes. Outlining the importance of providing operators with safe, healthy and comfortable conditions is David Buschman, General Manager of Merford Cabins, a company whose cabins can be found in a wide range of applications – including Damen dredgers.
“When we design a cabin we start off with the operator, and design the cabin around him,” begins Mr Buschman. “We want to create an environment where the operator can work safely and healthily. Where he is comfortable and can do his job well. Sickness will go down and productivity will go up when an operator is comfortable and happy.”
It is crucial that a dredge master’s line of sight is as clear as possible. “The operator has a big impact on the health and safety of all on board. It’s vital that he can see the anchor booms, spuds and winches – all the key components. And he must be able to see the crew: where they are and what they are doing.”
Sight, however, is not only about safety: it is also about operability. For this reason, the windows in Merford’s cabins on Damen dredgers are located at floor level. This position ties in closely with the control panels: “It is important that the operator has the right control systems at his disposal and he can operate them in a comfortable working position.”
The close cooperation between Merford and Damen has played an important role in fine-tuning cabin design. “We have recently made some changes to standardise our cabins. We have also included modular elements that offer clients numerous options.”
A vessel may be installed with the most efficient dredging equipment that money can buy, but without comfortable working conditions for the operator, productivity can suffer. “We want to create an ‘oasis of tranquillity’. This means using sound proofing glass and double-edged panels. Vibration dampers eliminate vibrations as much as possible.”
Merford Cabins has the advantage of being backed up by subsidiary companies such as Merford Noise Control: “We can use the technology and expertise from our sister companies to optimise our products. For example, our modifications on sound reduction reduce sound levels by 25 to 40 decibels.”
In control of the process
The concept of the ‘oasis of tranquillity’ also extends to the air quality inside a cabin. “We can create an overpressure to keep toxic fumes out. This, combined with a filter system, ensures that the operator breathes clean air. Depending on the outside environment, whether that’s sub-zero or tropical, we adapt the climate control system to a client’s requirements.”
All of Merford’s cabins, including those destined for life on a Damen dredger, are built in the Netherlands: a fact that brings numerous advantages, says Mr Buschman. “Having everything in-house allows us to deliver a complete product. We have absolute control of the whole process and this makes us very flexible. We can easily adapt to last minute customer wishes. And we are focused on quality – everyone who works here wants to make the best.”
CRADLE TO CRADLE
Creating a more sustainable cabin
For a company that prides itself on creating a safe, healthy and comfortable work space for operators, it is not a major leap in mind-set to focus on more environmentally friendly concepts. Mr Buschman explains: “As a family-owned company, including sustainability in our agenda is only logical. Looking at questions like: How can we construct a cabin that uses less energy? One that is healthier for not only for the operator, but also for our own production employees? We wanted to offer customers a choice that is ecologically friendly.”
With these principles in mind, Merford created the EcoCab NEO, a sustainable operator cabin that is Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM at the Bronze level. One of the most important steps is the selection of sustainable components: the company achieved this by breaking down a cabin into its component parts and then sourcing sustainable options that originate from recyclable and up-cyclable materials.
Solar power too
“The Ecocab NEO uses glass that requires 60% less water to make. Other components are free of benzenes, PVC and lead: meaning that the operator works in an atmosphere free of VOCs [volatile organic compounds].” Furthermore, these elements will not emit dangerous materials when they are recycled at the end of life. Solar panels in its roof provide the majority of the power supply.
“We also looked at our own production process from planning all the way to waste processing. For example, the construction of the Ecocab NEO needs less welding. This in itself uses less energy, but also requires less grinding which leads to further savings.”
In a changing world, Merford is positioning itself at the forefront of progressive business practices. “We differentiate in terms of quality, but also concerning innovation and technology,” Mr Buschman concludes. “We want to stay ahead – so we are on the edge of the technology curve.” The Ecocab NEO is a prime example of such progress.