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Marine Salvage - Best Practices for Operations

Brendan Cook   |   August 21, 2017

Reviewing the best practices of marine salvage operations and how Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV), or underwater drones prove to aid in underwater missions.

Recovery of sunken personal crafts to large cargo ships require the detailed attention of salvors to safely remove the vessel from our waterways. This job is costly, dangerous, and often takes place in treacherous waters. All of these factors mean a salvage team needs to be operating at top performance with the best practices to safely perform marine salvage operations.

Although the tasks of a salvage dive team can vary, the need for an accurate understanding of what lies below the water is of extreme importance to each project. When a crane is used to hoist a vessel out of the water, it is imperative to know the position of the boat, the balance and any areas that could potentially break or cause harm to anyone onboard or the surrounding environment.

Marine Salvage ROV Solution

For these reasons and more, an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) is a safe option to first survey an area and plan the most effective way for a recovery.

From time to time, the exact location of a disaster is unknown. In this case, side-scan sonars attached to a boat is used to search a large area, when targets are located an ROV, such as the Deep Trekker underwater drone, is then able to search each specific area with optional sonar systems to accurately identify the wreck.


The Deep Trekker underwater drone has a small footprint to have on the deck of a boat. With no additional power requirement, it can be in the water in thirty seconds searching an area. Understanding the surrounding environment, additional debris, or potential areas of fouling are all valuable information for the salvor to understand, prior to attempting a retrieval or quoting the cost for the salvage job.

Underwater Drone Marine Salvage Operation

Additionally, large vessels such as cruise and cargo ships can be disastrous when an unfortunate event occurs. One unfortunate example is the South Korea Ferry disaster. ROVs were the used to survey the area of wreckage and enter the inside of the ferry. The cold waters and current made it extremely dangerous for divers to be in the water, therefore ROVs were used to identify areas of interest and ultimately give the search team a better idea of what they were dealing with.

marine salvage operation Inspection with Camera in Korea Ferry Disaster

The recorded video from an underwater ROV is able to gather all different angles of the wreck as well as the surrounding area. Search for up to 8 hours on a single 90-minute charge. Even in cold waters, the bottom time of the ROV is not affected. This footage is documented to review with a larger team, plan routes, create reports and document the surrounding ecosystem.

The principle of “no-cure-no-pay”1 has been a part of the shipping and salvage industries for generations, meaning that unless the salvage job is a success, the salvor does not get paid for their efforts. With this on the line, it makes sense to survey the area first and collect as much information as possible for an accurate quotation and understanding of what steps to take when the contracted is awarded.

Deep Trekker underwater robots have been proven around the world as the go-to tool for robust and commercial-grade inspection vehicles for a variety of tasks and are known as a reliable tool for underwater salvage operations. Please contact us today to be ready when the next recovery your team faces.

More information on ROV marine salvage tools >



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