Firm makes splash in South Atlantic

Tritonia Scientific's Recompression Chamber at Dunstaffnage Marina

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An Oban company has secured a contract to help a remote tropical island in the South Atlantic Ocean.

Tritonia Scientific, based at Dunstaffnage Marina, was selected ahead of international bidders to lead on a project on the volcanic island of St Helena, a British Overseas Territory.

Situated 1,210 miles off the west coast of Africa, and 2,500 from the east coast of South America, the island has rapidly become a haven for divers.

Its waters are home to a wide variety of tropical fish, shipwrecks and large marine animals such as whale sharks, which can grow as long as 62ft and have been estimated to live as long as 130 years.

Tritonia Scientific has now won the job of leading on a feasibility study to explore the viability of a recompression facility for the island for treating divers when they get into difficulty.

Its work for St Helena will involve providing a range of recompression options which will then be considered by the government there.

Martin Sayer, managing director of Tritonia Scientific, said: ‘We have been in contact with St Helena regarding this study for many months. However, when it went out for international tender we were not confident of getting the work. So it was very satisfying when we heard and a great reward for all the effort put into the submission.’

The latest contract win is far from being Tritonia’s first overseas client.

The firm already partners on some European programmes, and has conducted work in Thailand and has a contract in Angola, south west Africa.

In addition to St Helena, it is also conducting operations in the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Indian Ocean, and acts as diving consultants to the British Antarctic Survey.

As for whether a trip to St Helena is in line for local staff, it appears the coronavirus has put paid to that for the time being.

Mr Sayer explained: ‘The contract initially had funding for site visits. Covid has impacted those plans and so the study will be desk-based for now.

‘Once travel restrictions are lifted then site visits may be required. The new airport has made St Helena more accessible but being a remote island in the southern mid-Atlantic still means that travel is complicated. There are daily flights from South Africa; these take about six hours and require a refuelling stop on the way.’

Tritonia employs eight full-time staff, and owns and manages the recompression chamber at Dunstaffnage.

It is one of only three NHS-registered units in the whole of Scotland.

Before the company was established in 2018, most of its staff worked at the UK’s National Facility for Scientific Diving, hosted at SAMS.

The recompression chamber at Dunstaffnage was located at SAMS from 1970 but SAMS stopped running it in 2018.

The Oban unit provides emergency year-round cover for diving incidents for the whole of the west coast of Scotland.

The company sub-contracts the medical support to the Lorn Medical Centre in Oban which is responsible for providing on-call doctors specially trained in diving and hyperbaric medicine.