Damen Shipyards has completed construction and outfitting of a diving bell ship for FMSW Koblenz/operator WSA Rhine (Waterways and Shipping Office). Following its completion, the vessel has recently undertaken successful river trials. It now has to wait for the diving equipment, delivery of which has been delayed due to the pandemic.

The on-time completion of the ship comes despite the challenging conditions posed by the coronavirus outbreak. Putting in place robust safety measures, Damen was able to continue work on the project throughout the year.

There has, however, been an impact on the project; due to the pandemic, the delivery of the diving equipment to Damen has been delayed. As a result, the diving bell ship will now commence operations next summer. Until that time, the ship will wait at Damen Shipyards Gorinchem in the Netherlands. Here, Damen will provide the vessel’s crew with familiarisation training in the meantime.

Also read: Damen to build diving bell ship for WSA Koblenz

The vessel will succeed the existing Carl Straat, which has been performing its duties since 1963. The successor vessel will draw significantly on the proven design of her predecessor.

Diving bell ship

The new diving bell ship will operate on the Rhine and its tributaries. It will provide dry conditions, in a pressurised atmosphere, in which personnel can work below the water. Its main scope of work will be the search and recovery of lost cargo and wreckage as well as inspection for construction projects. The vessel will also be capable of providing barrel anchors in gravelly and rocky areas in order to perform sampling activities.

‘This is such a special vessel,’ said Damen Project Manager Marius van Wijngaarden when the order was placed in January. ‘Really a one of a kind in the world and also, keeping in mind the old Carl Straat is almost sixty years old, this is a once in a lifetime work experience.’

Damen has applied the latest technology to the new vessel to ensure its suitability for future operations. It features high-performance diesel-electric propulsion compliant with EU Stage V standards, guaranteeing a constant cruising speed of 13 km/h.

Also read: Keel laid for unique diving bell ship

‘In 2018, we awarded the contract for the replacement of the TGS Carl Straat to Dutch shipbuilder Damen,’ says Gerald Rose, project manager from FMSW. ‘Due to the unique nature of the vessel, this is a particularly challenging project. Both parties wanted to build an excellent vessel for the operator – WSA Rhine – and I think this has been successful up to now. The Dutch not only live by the water, they work with it and this is impressively confirmed by this vessel.’