Deepsea and underwater surveys

Article written by Capt Andrew Korek

Capt Andrew Frank Korek, President of Phoenix Marine Services Inc. is a Master Mariner, a member of the Company of Master Mariners, the Nautical Institute and the International Association of Maritime Security Professionals (where he is a board member). He is also an established member of the International Institute of Marine Surveying.

Over 90 per cent of the world’s global trade is carried by commercial deepsea vessels. On any given day there are over 300 commercial, ocean-going vessels in B.C. waters loading and unloading a wide range of cargoes. Whether it be for a tanker, container, bulk or break bulk ship, deepsea vessel surveyors perform a number of services that require a complex skill set based on training, experience and practical problem-solving abilities. Before tackling the issue of qualifications, however, it’s worthwhile to look at the many aspects of deepsea vessel surveying — and with the help of Capt Andrew Korek, Phoenix Marine Services — an added perspective of the even more specialized work of underwater surveying.

Like all marine surveyors, deepsea and underwater surveyors are hired to assess, report on and recommend solutions for any number of issues arising for owners and operators of commercial ships, either at sea or in port. Deepsea vessel surveyors will often be able to offer services for draft surveys, on/off hire condition surveys and damage investigations, pre-purchase surveys, P&I surveys, stability surveys, stowage and lashing, loading supervision, and marine insurance surveys to name a few.

From a vessel knowledge standpoint, surveyors must be equipped with skills that will help them deal with every part of the ship and every activity performed by the ship. From the engine room and mechanical inspections to the hull to cargo (including sampling and testing as well as movement logistics), successful deepsea vessel surveyors must be adept in all ship operations.

In the case of underwater surveyors, additional services can range from inwater class surveys to hull cleaning to underwater video or photography surveys and sonar surveys to in-water ballast tank inspection and maintenance.

Underwater surveys can often speed up inspection times and allow ship owners to avoid costly haul-outs and dry dock situations. At a minimum, deepsea vessel surveyors are required to have at least five years of experience as master in command of ocean-going vessels.

Additional disciplines, such as marine engineering or naval architecture, will enhance the surveyor’s abilities to deal with issues related to vessel construction and stability, mechanical and engine systems, auxiliary systems and cargo handling. Surveyors must know marine regulations and best safety practices, international maritime law, equipment and safety compliance codes, classification rules, investigative practices for marine incidents and insurance claims. Add to this the highly specialized skills required for underwater surveying, and it is rare to find someone who has obtained such training and experience.

While a number of routes can be taken to obtain qualifications for underwater surveying, taking Capt Korek as our example (the only underwater surveyor within the Association of Marine Surveyors of B.C.), the military provided a significant foundation, followed by commercial diving and subsequent training with specialized equipment and technologies, such as sonars, ultrasonic thickness gauges and other Non Destructive Testing (NDT) methods. Not only are the qualifications extensive, but an underwater surveyor’s diving capabilities must be such that he can perform these duties in adverse weather conditions and under strict timelines. And, as with all marine surveyors, the ability to provide a clear and concise report on findings as well as the abilities to recommend remedies and undertake the management of such remedies are crucial elements to a surveyor’s success.

A typical job for Capt Korek will often involve an in-water inspection in lieu of dry-docking on a submerged part of a vessel’s hull. The following example provides a good overview of the steps required and the full extent of the surveyor’s responsibilities.

Called upon by the ship’s owners, Phoenix Marine Services attended to a bulk carrier afloat at Neptune Terminals in North Vancouver. The vessel was 225 metres in length with a 32.26-metre beam and gross tonnage of 40,532. The work to be performed included a Lloyd’s Class bottom survey afloat in lieu of dry-docking and removal by oxy-thermic cutting of a detached portion of the bilge keel.

The task was carried out in two phases — the first to conduct the inspection, starting with the aft section, relocation of the dive station and resumption of the inspection on the forward section. The second dive follows the completion of the survey and a meeting with ship’s staff to discuss recommended repairs. As part of the survey, Capt. Korek will provide a full report on the conditions of the rudder, the propeller, sea chests, bilge keels and hull. The report will be accompanied by video, photographs and detailed schematics to give the ship’s owner a comprehensive understanding of the findings. For this particular example, a second dive to carry out repairs was necessary — in this case, to remove the detached portion of the starboard bilge keel which had been found deflected upwards and detached from the doubling plate between frames 112 and 117. Another significant deflection of the bilge was noted between frames 118 and 122 and divers reported a section with upward deflection approximately 30 cm from the original position.

A key part of the surveyor’s report is the final “Remarks and Recommendations” section which will summarize key findings, remedies and recommendations for future maintenance and upgrades. For this example, Capt Korek’s survey found that:

• Significant areas of surface corrosion reported by the diver during inspection are caused by evident lack of sufficient anticorrosive protection, what ultimately calls for the improvement of such, by fitting new and additional anodes in the near future in addition to the existing ICCP system.
• Due to the earlier than expected ship’s departure, divers did not have enough time to smooth rough edges of the cut at the starboard bilge keel, which should be attended at the earliest convenience. Coating of the edges after grinding would be also recommended.
• Cracks and weld seam fracture at the rudder should be monitored and rewelded as soon as possible.
• The captioned vessel is kept in impeccable condition. Master, deck officers, engineers and crew are able, co-operative and motivated.

They were very helpful at all time during the course of diving operations.

In addition to details on conditions found, Capt Korek outlines the equipment used to accomplish the work — in this case:

• Diver Communication System
• Surface Supplied Diving Gear
• Diving Helmets
• Underwater cameras and lights
• CCTV Underwater Digital Video System
• U/W Welding and Cutting Equipment
• Ultrasonic Thickness gauges
• NDT tools and equipment

While the above is a good example of the work done by underwater surveying, it illustrates just one issue that will arise in the survey of a deepsea vessel. Surveyors can be called upon to address matters related to the hull, machinery and cargo operations, hence requiring a full understanding of commercial ships and their operations that can only come from extensive training and experience.

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