5 Tips to keep your Marine Communications System on the Air
Regular maintenance is vital to keeping your Marine Communication Antenna System on the air. The Autumn and Spring months are a great time to perform maintenance on your Marine Communication Antenna System.
There are 5 simple steps we can recommend to help extend the life of your antenna array and maintain your communications :
- Check earthing: It is not only designed to help in the likely event of lightning strikes, it is also effective at reducing the static build-up often associated with noise or interference in communications equipment. By earthing out the both top and bottom of the feeder run, you can help reduce the overall noise and get clearer communications. For above 60 metre cable runs, ZCG recommend multiple grounding kits be installed along your cable to ensure dissipation of static along your feeder cable run.
- Check the Sealing of Connectors: Over time amalgamation rubber and PVC degrade. UV light slowly breaks down the protective layers and salt air will penetrate into the connection and cause corrosion, leading to performance loss or RF system failure. To minimise this, visual checking and re-sealing connections both internal and external at regular intervals is vital. It is also important to look for damage caused by birds and other wildlife. Cockatoos and other such parrot species are notorious for stripping cables bare. The most effective solution is to feed vulnerable sections of cable through stainless steel bird-proof braid, which will provide the ultimate protection against all such bird damage and reduce expensive replacement costs. The braid ends can be secured with stainless steel hose clamps or stainless steel cable ties. Bird-proof braid is highly flexible and will survive long term in the harshest of marine environments available in 304 or 315 grade stainless.
- Return Loss/VSWR testing: If you have access to a Return Loss, VSWR meter or network analyser, it is a good idea to spend some time once a year checking antenna performance is still as stated by ZCG. Over time, the performance of all antennas will degrade. When dealing with communication antennas, this equates to a reduction in range and efficiency. By keeping a log over the space of a few years, you will be able to monitor the performance of your communication antennas and make informed decisions on when to replace. Note: ZCG recommends that Base Station antennas have a VSWR equal to or better than 1.5:1
- Remove old antennas and steel work: Old/non-functioning antennas, excess steel work and non-utilised feeder cables are the major cause of interference on communications sites around Australia. By removing old antennas and the related accessories you can free up space, remove excess weight from structures as well as help improve your coverage by reducing the likelihood of interference or coupling being generated.
- Replace/upgrade antennas and feeders: Because communications are mission critical to marine rescue organisations as well as the general user, it is important to ensure your system is the highest quality. Having an external antenna designed specifically for Marine fixed position applications installed by a qualified technicians can help ensure your communications are always performing to the level you require. In an emergency time is of the essence and you want to be able to rely on your communications systems to ensure you can get in contact with emergency services or another close by vessel.
ZCG can supply RF solutions for all 5 steps and offer a complete range of base station fixed position and marine vessel mounted antennas specifically designed for marine communications. We also supply coaxial cable, connectors, grounding/earthing kits, lightning power surge protectors and water-proofing .
Our Victorian based RF technicians are fully qualified and equipped for tuning assistance, site/propagation prediction, Performance Testing and site maintenance consultation.
By performing our 5 Tips regularly you can ensure your communication antennas won’t let you down.
The Importance of Coaxial Feeder Cable
Just as important as the quality of the antenna, the type and quality of feeder cable or coaxial cable can assist or hinder your RF systems efficiency and how far your communications reach and efficiency. Most standard marine antennas are shipped with 5 metres of MIL-SPEC RG58 cable in either black or white outer, which in short runs is the market standard and suitable in performance levels to the applications. However, for Base station, fixed position applications, ZCG will always recommend using a high-quality low loss feeder cable like RU400 (LMR400 equivalent). For cable runs over 30 metres, we would recommend that ZCG1250 1/2″ Flexible Foam Dielectric or for reduced space availability or super flexible requirements ZCG1250SF 1/2″ super flexible helical shielded coaxial cable be utilised to reduce signal loss to a minimum over longer distances.
Stainless Steel Cable Ties
Stainless Steel Cable Ties are just perfect for securing antenna feeder cable in the harsh Marine environment.
- Resistant to corrosion, salt, acids, chemicals, radiation, extreme temperatures and all weather conditions.
- Superior strength.
- Ideal for use indoors, outdoors or underground.
- Install with full confidence that the Grade 316 Stainless Steel will maintain integrity over many decades.
- Tensioner Tool available to fit stainless steel cable ties quickly at the proper tension and neatly cut off the tail.
Marine Antennas for Emergency Services, Commercial and Recreational Vessels
ZCG offer a complete range of Marine Antennas suitable for mounting to any vessel. The range includes antennas for HF, 27 MHz, VHF, UHF, Mobile Phone, AM/FM Radio and AIS1 & AIS2 (Automatic Identification System).
Every ZCG marine antenna is proudly designed and manufactured in Australia. Why would you trust ZCG’s range of marine
- Proudly designed and manufactured in our Victorian Head office & manufacturing facility by skill antenna manufacturers.
- Constructed from the highest quality components to ensure longevity – not cable and a piece of wire, like some products on the market.
- Silver soldered internal assemblies, robust and won’t deteriorate over time, unlike soft soldered PCB joins.
- Quality assurance by individual testing all products in the factory prior to dispatch to ensure optimum tune and performance.
View the ZCG Marine Antenna range here