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Bird bound for Kashagan
Published:  11 June, 2009

Jo Bird has long been recognised as a leading manufacturer of GRP storage cabinets for firefighting and lifesaving equipment in some of the most inhospitable climates in the world. The company’s latest order involves 24 insulated and heated cabinets that will house hydrants at the monumental Kashagan oil project in Kazakhstan. IFJ visited Jo Bird to find out more

This is the second order for heated cabinets that Jo Bird has received from Kazakhstan, where the company regularly does business, indicative perhaps of the performance of the first order delivered back in 2001. Kashagan Field is, after all, located in a region where the temperatures range from -35 in the winter to 40 C in the summer. 

Then again, such an order does not surprise Jo Bird’s MD Guy Atkins, who shows IFJ consignments ready for despatch from his warehouse in mid Somerset to all corners of the globe, in particular China and UAE.

Offshore customers represent 50 per cent of the company’s business, with products ranging from extinguisher cabinets, firehouse/foam cabinets, firefighters’ clothing cabinets to helicopter crash rescue, BA, and personal evacuation equipment cabinets. Basically all the equipment that is essential and that has to be easily accessible during emergencies.

The common denominator here is the skilful use of glass reinforced plastic (GRP) in the cabinets, and it is this that has established the Jo Bird name in this demanding industry. So tough are the Firebird-branded cabinets in fact, says Atkins, that in many cases the cabinets are out-surviving some of the offshore oil platforms that they were originally installed in, and which are shortly to be decommissioned in the North Sea.

In harsh environments such as these, comments Atkins, it just does not pay to base purchasing decisions on price alone. “Some people try to sell steel cabinets into this environment, but of course they don’t last more than a few years offshore. Concentrating on ensuring the design and finish is carefully suited to the environment means our products will outlast steel and other competitor products which are often designed for more general use.. If a product fails that is located 200 feet up a platform, and a hose comes off, it has to be retrieved from the sea and the cost of that is huge. There are many hidden costs.”

Surprisingly the emergency equipment storage sector is very competitive and Jo Bird aims to set itself apart via the performance and longevity of its products, explains Atkins. Indeed its Firebird range is IP56-rated for water and dust ingress, which should more than satisfy even the most demanding engineers.

The latest order from Kazakhstan is representative of the kind of bespoke work that the company carries out on a regular basis. In this case the cabinets have a hydrant-shaped hole at the base, and they are insulated plus they house explosion-proof heaters.

“Other tailor-made products include raised cabinets that we have manufactured especially for desert environments, so that the cabinet doors can be opened even when desert sand has blown over and piled up at the bottom. For the Umm Shaif project in Abu Dhabi all the safety equipment cabinets were specified in salmon pink,” remembers Atkins.

As well as the Firebird brand, Jo Bird manufactures the ToughStore range of fire extinguisher cabinets. This range has done what no other similar storage solution has managed to do so far - introduce an element of practical design and aesthetics where the norm is both unimaginative and unglamorous.

The ToughStore cabinets’ transparent polycarbonate doors allow visual checks on the status of fire extinguishers and other equipment, whilst providing an effective protective barrier. And the company is about to add an anti-microbial additive to the polycarbonate, opening up the product for clean environments such as hospitals. 

Lastly, Guy points out that the company recently achieved the ISO 14001 standard on environmental management. ISO 14001 provides a framework for the development of an environmental management system and the supporting audit programme.