ROV in hunt for unexploded munitions in the Baltic Sea

Paul Boughton

A Sub-Atlantic Comanche ROV is being used to hunt for unexploded chemical and conventional munitions near the Nord Stream pipeline route in what is thought to be the most extensive survey of a defined path through the Baltic Sea. Using the most state-of-the-art equipment available, Swedish company Marin Mätteknik AB (MMT) has been engaged in carrying out a survey along the proposed 4000km pipeline route to detect munitions and objects as small as 10cm discarded during World War II.

MMT managing director Ola Oskarsson said: "Comanche 03 has been working above our expectations in this very important project. We have equipped it with a 7m wide array and can still run effortlessly and accurately along lines on the seafloor.

"We have now run 2534km and approximately 1240 hours. Servicing to the Comanche has been very minor. We initially planned for 72 hour maximum dive time between services but have now increased to 120 hour intervals because of the ROV reliability."

Gradiometer array

The electrically propelled work class Comanche ROV has been fitted with an Innovatum 'Smartsearch' sensor gradiometer array which allows it to detect and identify any ferrous metals on the seabed.

Gradiometer data is processed within a digital terrain model to allow objects to be located for further visual inspection.

Terry Slater, managing director of Innovatum, said: "Smartsearch is an underwater survey system which provides rapid, highly detailed magnetic mapping of small ferrous objects, locating targets unseen by other systems.

The low weight, size and power requirements of the Smartsearch system increase the versatility of modern electric vehicles and keep costs down.

Installation of Smartsearch on the Sub-Atlantic Comanche showed very low levels of magnetic noise, allowing the full potential of the system to be realised."

"This customer satisfaction emphasises the reliability of Sub-Atlantic equipment and demonstrates our commitment to ensure our products fulfil the requirements of our customers," added John Ferguson, general manager of Sub-Atlantic.

MMT has now committed to upgrading their Comanche with the new state of the art SubCAN surface control system.

High speed communications

Meanwhile, Integrated Subsea Systems (ISS) has taken delivery of the latest generation ROV control system, which harnesses the newest technology to provide high speed communications, control and real time diagnostics.

The Aberdeen-headquartered diving and ROV service firm has invested in the new subCAN developed by world leading manufacturer Sub-Atlantic Ltd, part of the Triton Group of companies.

Built using the latest technology, expertise and ingenuity, subCAN offers high speed communications and data network system providing command, control and real time diagnostic functions for Sub-Atlantic ROVs.

The modular design and functionality of the system not only provides the latest communications capability and 'touch screen' graphical user interface (GUI), but also allows for ongoing customer/manufacturer driven system evolution and further sensor integration.

This is the second system to be procured by ISS for their Comanche ROVs during 2008.

Dubai-based, subsea engineering specialist, Dulam International Ltd has also bought subCAN for use with a Comanche ROV, tether management system and pipeline survey package. Other key industry contractors are due to take delivery of SubCAN with new vehicles before the end of the year.

Sub-Atlantic's says the subCAN has resulted in an innovative and cost-effective work class solution for command, control and real time diagnostics of electric vehicles.

The system also allows for 'hands off' inertial navigation and accurate station holding in conjunction with A DVL and Gyrocompass which is a major breakthrough in electric ROV operation.

SubCAN's level of vehicle control and level of feedback prior to, during and post deployment offers increased reliability helping our customers minimise down time, reduce costs and ultimately increase their profitability.

ISS managing director Ian Herd, said: "The subCAN gives ISS a leading role in moving the ROV industry to the next level. We chose this system for its advanced features, increased diagnostic feedback and robust communication links, as built by a leading ROV manufacturer.

"Through this investment, ISS is now among the first companies in the world able to offer the system, placing us at the cutting edge of this new technology."

Initially designed around the Comanche light work class ROV, subCAN packages for Mohican and other Sub-Atlantic vehicles are available.

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Alasdair Murrie is with Sub-Atlantic Ltd, Aberdeen, Scotland, UK. www.sub-atlantic.com