Russian Navy’s Saturation Diving Rescue System

New Wave Media

November 2, 2013

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After the Kursk exploded and sank in 2000, the Russian Admiralty recognized that they did not have an efficient system for rescuing stranded submariners. Some western submarine specialists went as far as claiming that such a system did not exist because the Russian Navy cared more about saving face than saving any crews that were eventually stranded. It is quite probable that such a system was not developed earlier due to the dire financial situation faced by Russia. The fact is that it has been 13 years since the Kursk tragedy, but Russia will now be able to deploy a modern, safe and efficient saturation diving rescue system, through its agreement with Divex, who have built 100 major saturation diving systems since 1974.

The Scotish company is going to split manufacturing of the facility between two of their global locations. The system decompression chambers, diving bell and control system will be built in Divex facilities in Perth, Western Australia while the bell deployment, life support and gas management systems will be manufactured and supplied from Divex headquarters in Aberdeen, Scotland, and all the environmental control systems (ECS) equipment will be manufactures at Divex’s facility in Cape Town, South Africa, making the system a truly international project.

This system will be installed aboard the Igor Belousov rescue ship, to be commissioned into the Russian Navy in 2014. The need for such a dedicated diving rescue vessel was also emphasized by the Kursk tragedy in 2000. Divex Joint Managing Director, Doug Godsman, travelled to Moscow to sign the contract and was met by his Russian counterpart Alexander Delyanov of Tetis Pro wearing a kilt in honor of the Russian / Scottish collaboration on this project. Doug commented, “This is a prestigious project award for Divex and is testament to our design flexibility and track record in producing both commercial and military technical diving systems. We look forward to working with our Russian partners Tetis Pro and their client, the Russian Navy, on this project. The vessel will, on completion, offer a lifesaving capability in the event of a submarine accident and our employees can take pride in their endeavours to this end.”

The 450 meter rated deep saturation diving system will be operated by Divex’s Russian partners Tetis Pro and ultimately for the Russian Admiralty. The system, worth in excess of £10million (US$16million), is to be installed in partnership between Divex and Tetis Pro on the Rescue Ship Igor Belousov. The system is a unique design that accommodates 12 divers in saturation, allowing three-man bell excursions to depths of 450 msw (meters salt water) to gain access to a stricken submarine. It also accommodates up to 60 rescued submariners in the chamber complex in the event that they require decompression following rescue.

The system comprises four accommodation chambers arranged around a central “transfer-under-pressure” chamber where the divers don their diving equipment and access the diving bell. These four chambers accommodate the divers at their equivalent working pressure, and provide decompression facilities for the rescued submariners. It is hoped that from now on the Russian Navy will be more supportive of its submariners needs and more preoccupied with their safety than when the Kursk sank.

Below: Russian Navy Rescue Ship Igor Belousov

Below: Saturation diving control system




Below: Divex Saturation System to be used by Russian Navy

Paschoa, Claudio
Claudio Paschoa is Marine Technology Reporter's correspondent in Brazil.