Diving and Salvage
A mix of underwater construction projects, maintenance and repair work, firefighting and vessel recoveries have been keeping several diving and salvage companies busy in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
Washington-based AUS Diving has been providing underwater construction services for the new 520 floating bridge project since 2012. The company is finishing up its current work on the project, and will soon be involved in the demolition of the old bridge, which will involve removing anchor wires and breaking the pontoon sections into pieces.
Construction also began this past June on the Box Canyon Dam Upstream Fish Passage Project. AUS is providing the dive support for the project, working for the General contractor, J.W. Fowler and the cofferdam subcontractor, Pacific Pile and Marine. As per the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relicense process, Box Canyon Dam, which is located on the Pend Oreille River near Ione, Washington, is required to provide upstream passage for the bull trout, west slope cutthroat, and the mountain whitefish.
Prior to the start of construction, AUS performed a hydrographic survey of the work area and an initial dive survey. Multiple dive crews are required to complete the work scope, which includes rock removal, sheet pile burning, installation of a steel dewatering structure, and underwater concrete placement. "We're assisting in the cofferdam installation and we are installing templates and underwater concrete forms so we can pour the footings to assist in the dewatering," says Kerry Donohue, AUS' vice president, "and some channel guides and guide walls so the major form work can go in."
The project is expected to be completed by October 2017.
AUS' ongoing work includes maintenance and repair work for the BP Cherry Point Refinery, in Blaine, Washington as well as pile repair work and ship bumper replacement for the Phillips 66 Refinery in Ferndale, Washington. Donohue reports that work is pretty steady, despite competition from the influx of companies and divers from the Gulf of Mexico due to the oil market downturn.
"There are a lot more people chasing the same amount of work," he says. "We've got some pretty good maintenance contracts that help us out. We're doing a little more ROV work. We're seeing an increase in that, so that's pretty good."
In August of 2015, Houston-headquartered Ardent (a 2015 merger between Crowley Maritime Corp.'s Titan Salvage and Svitzer Salvage), worked alongside Ardentia Marine, one of its partner companies, on the salvage of the Oleg Naydenov a fishing trawler that sank at 2,700 meters off the coast of Gran Canarias, Spain. The vessel had suffered a fire so devastating that fire experts were unable to get aboard before she sank but all crew were able to safety abandon ship. Additionally, the vessel began leaking oil as it had just been refueled before the incident. Salvage efforts included using oil receiving tanks that were submerged to collect the oil and subsequently hoisted to the surface. Subsea recovery domes were also installed over areas where leaks were detected to help contain further pollution. The operation required the use of ROVs and heavy lifting equipment.
"We took ROVs and went all the way down to 2.7 kilometers and drilled about 17 or 18 holes into the vessel hull," says Ardent spokesman Henry Chan. "It took a couple of months, but we were able to clean up all of the hydrocarbons that were in the water, completely 100 percent drained the whole vessel's fuel that was inside. Not a drop spilled."
In August of this year, after the passenger vessel Caribbean Fantasy suffered a fire in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Ardent's team of emergency responders were called as part of the Vessel Response Plan (under Ardent's OPA-90, Salvage and Marine Fire Fighting "SMFF" coverage program), to help extinguish the flames. Following the evacuation of more than 500 passengers and crew by the US Coast Guard, Ardent carried out an underwater dive survey to inspect the hull for damage. Since the hull had suffered minimal damage, Ardent proceeded to take the ship into port as approved by the USCG, with the assistance of several towing companies, then completed fire-fighting operations. Subsequently, Caribbean Fantasy was secured using Ardent's heavy weather mooring plan, and the vessel was returned to its owner.
At Fish Harbor, in the Port of San Pedro. California, Seattle-based Global Diving & Salvage performed a salvage job on a 60-foot wooden derelict fishing vessel John Peter. Global was contracted by the USGC to raise the vessel and take the fuel off of it as well as the batteries, fire extinguishers, paint, oil, and other hazardous materials. The boat ended up being heavier than first anticipated, so a large crane was used to put lifting straps underneath it. Lift bags were installed and used for parbuckling the vessel since when it sank, it had rolled over hard on its port side. "We didn't pick the boat up all the way out of the water with the crane," says Kyle Watson, Salvage Officer. "We used it to get it to where the decks were out of the water, then we put dewatering pumps onboard the boat and pumped the water out of the inside to get it floating again."
Once the water was pumped out, Global found several leaks which they patched. Once the vessel was stabilized, crews worked to recover approximately 35 gallons of diesel fuel, six batteries and various other hazardous materials. The pre-salvage planning was made by visual observations since the vessel was tied to a dock. "One of the first things we did when we put the divers in the water was do an overall assessment of the vessel to make sure there were no entrapment concerns," explains Watson. "We put up some safety lines to keep the boat from sinking any further. Although we didn't think there was reason to be concerned, we tied some lines up to the dock just to make sure, because when a diver goes down and underneath the boat, we want to make sure it's not moving on them."
One diver would work a shift, then be relieved by one of the other three on the dive team to ensure divers would not get overheated or too fatigued. A standby diver and dive supervisor were always at hand. "This job was really physically demanding on the topside supporting the diver because the boat sank about 250 feet down from a parking lot," says Watson. "It was a really narrow walkway, and we had to carry hundreds and hundreds of pounds of gear from the parking lot down to the boat."
Watson says business has been good; the company has responded to a number of casualties this year and opened a new office in Southern California.
In addition, Global builds oil spill response trailers for the State of California. The Office of Spill Prevention and Response issues grants to fire departments and various public agencies. The grantee receives a 16-foot trailer loaded with oil spill response equipment, with 1,000 feet of oil containment boom and oil absorbent material, personal protective equipment, and affiliated equipment. "We've built 37 of them (since 2009) in the State of California and we also provide an eight-hour training on how to clean up oil spills as part of that grant," says Watson. The diving side of operations has also been very busy with various construction projects that include a lot of work for Pacific Gas and Electric, Watson says.
Global has a full safety department in the company's Seattle office that keeps abreast of all the Associated Diving Contractor (ADC) and OSHA regulations, ensuring that dive crews keep their certifications current and enforces industry and company policies. Before any diving is done on a project, safety meetings are held regarding the nuances and hazards of the job. Hardhat divers communicate via a two-way radio system tied to their umbilical. The divers have three sources of air. The primary source is the topside air compressor. If that were to fail, a switch would be made to a standby bottle topside, and the dive would be cancelled until the air compressor was fixed. "The third supply is called a bailout bottle, and that's a tank that the diver wears on his back," says Watson. "If something happens topside where he stops getting air, he can turn his bailout bottle on and get air immediately. And again, we cancel the dive if that happens."
Time-tested equipment, deep experience, vital safety protocols and on-the-job ingenuity are all hallmarks of the diving and salvage trade that ebbs and flows alongside the changing needs of its customers.