SHETLAND company Ocean Kinetics is to undertake what is believed to be the first underwater welding project of its kind inside the Antarctic Circle.
The firm, which has bases in the islands and Aberdeen, will carry out the work – in conjunction with civil engineering firm Arch Henderson – for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in February.
The work is to repair a damaged quay which is thought to have been hit by an iceberg at the Rothera Research Station. An Ocean Kinetics diver and welders will carry out a temporary repair to the quay.
Temperatures in Rothera can drop to -20oC in the winter months, with an average of 70 days’ gale force winds in any year. During the summer months, when the repair works will be carried out, the temperature varies between 0oC and 5OC.
Ocean Kinetics and Arch Henderson are working together to repair the quayside, used by BAS to berth its vessels RRS James Clark Ross and RRS Ernest Shackleton during the summer months.
Arch Henderson was commissioned by BAS to find a solution to repair the quay after a hole appeared on the quay deck, which was caused by a split in the corner of the sheet piles.
The repair method devised by the two firms consists of strapping chains around the corner, which are tensioned against brackets welded to the sheet piles, along with a considerable amount of underwater welding and steel plating work.
Due to the remote location and “very limited” local resources, the chosen method requires minimum plant equipment and can be easily adapted should the damage have worsened throughout the winter.
Ocean Kinetics marine projects director Michael Fox said: “We worked quickly to mobilise and meet the sailing deadline. In that time we fabricated and supplied all the materials needed for the contract and provided all the necessary diving equipment and plant to carry out the works.
“Taking into consideration how remote the location of the project is, we had to send plenty of spare parts along with back up welding sets and generators. If something was to breakdown there it would take weeks, if not months, to ship in a replacement.
“We deployed the plant and dive equipment for the project on a ship on September 8, 2015. However, we won’t be on station until February to carry out the repair works. We have been working with Arch Henderson for more than 20 years and we have built up an excellent working relationship.
“This is an exciting project for both companies and we think we might be the first UK company to carry out underwater welding within the Antarctic Circle for BAS.”
Ocean Kinetics expects to be at Rothera for about 12 days early next year.
The station, established in 1975, is open throughout the year. In summer the population peaks at just over 100 people, while in the winter – from April to mid October – a team of 22 continues to undertake scientific research and maintain the station infrastructure.
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