On September 16th, 2009 the Maersk container ship Kendal ran aground on the Monggok Sebarok reef in the Singapore Strait. The 300 meter 75,000 ton ship was sailing from Thailand to the Malaysian port of Tanjong when it ran aground less that 1 kilometer south of Sebarok Island. At the time, it was transiting the zone of shipping lanes referred to as the Traffic Separation Scheme.
Ironically, The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) was receiving a demonstration by SeaBotix and their ASEAN Distributor, Sea & Land Technologies, of the unprecedented hull inspection capabilities of the SeaBotix Little Benthic Crawler (LBC). The system is comprised of the LBV300-5 ROV and the optional Crawler Skid Assembly which uses a Vortex Generator and 4-wheel drive system to attract to any relatively flat surface with ~22kg (50lb) of force and drive on the hull like a tank. This provides ultimate stability in very strong currents and sea states meaning the sensor and video data is the highest quality possible.
An urgent inspection of the ship hull for damage where the Kendal made contact with the sea floor was needed. The demonstration was postponed and SeaBotix Account Executive Jeff Conger was mobilized with the LBC for the inspection. A support vessel was provided by the MPA. The LBC system was quickly loaded as only a few small transit cases are required for the entire system. The crew included MPA officials, staff from Sea & Land Technologies, and Jeff Conger. The response time from receiving the call to arriving on site at the Kendal was less than two and half hours.
Upon arrival at the Kendal conditions were worsening. Current was up to an estimated 4+ knots and the sea state was extremely choppy. The MPA vessel struggled to securely hold position, dragged its anchor on several occasions, and ended up tied up to a support tug. Once the vessels were secured a mission plan was quickly devised and duties given to those onboard.
The LBC was lowered into the water where Jeff quickly rolled and attached to the Kendal's hull. Conditions were so strong that the LBC had to be driven at angle to avoid being pulled off by the strong 4+ knot current. Jeff worked the SeaBotix LBC to the bow at traversing angles and reached the damage area in short order. An inspection of the damaged area was conducted providing real time high-resolution video to the console where MPA officials looked on.
After completing the damaged area inspection Jeff proceeded to get close up video of the sea floor where it made contact with the Kendal. A full sweep along the hull at point of contact was covered. Upon completion of the sea floor inspection the SeaBotix LBC was driven back to the support vessel and recovered to the deck.
The data collected was provided to the MPA for preparation to free the Kendal and help ensure that no pollutants had or would enter the water or further harm would occur. MPA officials were so incredibly happy with the capability of the SeaBotix Crawler that a system was soon ordered and has now become part of the standard equipment list.
It was clear from the video that no traditional ROV - including SeaBotix' standard systems - would be capable of an inspection in such high currents in a confined space between a ship hull and the sea floor. The conditions exceeded traditional ROV capability and were certainly too dangerous for divers.