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New Hull Repair Kit Launched to Save Ships Holed by Ice

Credit: MIKO

By The Maritime Executive 03-10-2020 04:53:26

The first Miko Plaster Polar Kits have been supplied to ship operators providing passenger cruises in polar waters. Using magnetic patches and a special application technique, the kits have been developed to enable ships, for the first time, to effectively repair hull damage caused by polar ice while still at sea and without a diver. Such damage is a recognized risk, even for ice-class vessels, and is likely to increase as climate change releases more free-floating ice into open water.

Until now, there has been little possibility of a ship’s crew sealing a hull puncture in sub-zero waters. Interior fittings and the ship’s structure reduce the probability of a hole being repaired from the inside. External repairs can only be performed by divers protected against the freezing waters. Because few ships carry divers, only their pumps can protect them against flooding. If the pumps fail, they will suffer the same consequence as the m/v Explorer which sank off Antarctica in 2007 after being holed by ice in calm weather. Although passengers cruising in polar waters tend to be adventurous in outlook, it is believed that many may be disturbed to realize that their ship has no defense against ice damage.

The new Miko Plaster Polar Kit contains magnetic patches that have been familiar to the maritime industries for over 20 years. Oslo-based Miko Marine has now developed a technique that enables these patches to be applied without anyone entering the freezing water. Polar cruise operators Hurtigruten and National Geographic Lindblad are the first companies to equip ships with them.

Since 2017, ships seeking IMO Polar Code approval have been required to demonstrate an effective plan of action for any emergency in polar waters. This includes after sustaining ice damage to the hull and until now there has not been any possibility of the ship’s crew performing a credible repair. Miko Marine and its customers now believe that that the Polar Kit is the answer to this challenge.

Each Miko Plaster Polar Kit contains magnetic patches – referred to as plasters due to their instant adhesion to a steel hull. Made from an extremely strong flexible laminate with a powerful magnetic layer, they are widely used by navies and the global shipping and salvage industries and have been responsible for preventing the loss of many ships. Each Polar Kit contains several plasters combined with a number of lines and tackle that are deployed in a unique application technique by two or three crew members in a small boat beside the area of damage. Any hole down to two meters below the water line can now be closed with a plaster without anyone needing to enter the water. The magnetic adhesion of the patch, combined with the outside water pressure, will keep it securely in place and additional high-power magnets may also be applied to maintain the seal until the ship is safely in dock.

Although warmer seas are opening polar waters to more shipping, a new study published by Newcastle University and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography has revealed that the thinning of the Antarctic ice sheet is releasing more ice into the ocean. This is likely to result in more smaller pieces floating out to sea where some may become an increased hazard to shipping by being difficult to spot by crew and not visible on normal marine radar.

Professor Norvald Kjerstadt of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, a leading authority on polar navigation, has praised the Polar Kit and explained that; “Ships are usually damaged by ice when they are going too fast in relatively open water or very open drift ice,” he said. “They tend to go slower when they are in leads or confined spaces which means that there is less risk of damage.”  When ships speed-up in open water where there is now more floating ice they could be at greater risk.   

The products and services herein described in this press release are not endorsed by The Maritime Executive.