THE Shields Ferry remains shipshape for passenger service – after sailing through a key inspection carried out by a remote control mini submarine.
A remotely operated vehicle (ROV) was sent underwater to check out the hull of the Spirit of the Tyne – after fears the vessel could have been left high and dry.
The Spirit of the Tyne, the newer of two ferries used by operators Nexus, was due to enter dry dock for the mandatory hull inspection.
But doubts over the availability of the dry dock facility on the Tyne left the ferry operators seeking an alternative.
South Shields firm Tyne and Wear Ltd stepped in to make sure they weren’t left all at sea by completing the hull inspection while the ferry remained in the water.
The successful check-up allowed the ferry to remain available for her daily Tyne crossings.
It is the first time in the history of the Shields Ferry that an inspection has been carried out using a submersible.
Nexus has to ensure regular inspections are carried out on both of its vessels, set down in law by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).
The success of the inspection ensures that the Spirit of the Tyne has a passenger licence well into 2015, at which time a further hull inspection will be carried out in an available dry dock.
Shields Ferry manager Carol Timlin, said: “The submersible is a fantastic device and this is a great outcome for the ferry service.
“It’s the first time that we have used a sub to carry out inspections on the vessel’s hull.
“We were faced with a conundrum over the availability of a dry dock, but this has allowed to us find an excellent solution to the problem.
“The use of the ROV is part of an agreed five-year cycle for Class V passenger vessels with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
“Not all vessels will be suitable for this type of survey. Dry docking, where more hands on repair work can be carried out, will still be required.
Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) are highly manoeuvrable, unmanned submersibles used for numerous underwater tasks from diver observation through to building entire installations.
ROVs are widely used in the off-shore oil and gas industries, and are now making their way into the in-shore industry.
The ROV is operated by a person on-board a vessel or quayside and is linked by an umbilical cable known as a tether, that carries power, video and data signals back to the pilot in order to see and navigate the vehicle.
This allows the pilot to remain in a more comfortable and safe environment, while the ROV works in the often hazardous water environment below.