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Across the globe, almost 90% of imports and exports are transported by sea, making the marine industry arguably one of the most vital and indispensable infrastructures in the world.

On-going operational security and reliable and consistent supply chains are essential to keep the world fed and the global wheel of trade turning. Well-maintained ships and vessels that run efficiently and with minimal interruption to function and service are the key to smooth operations.

For these reasons maritime engineering and underwater marine services are vital. These crucial aspects of the maritime industry can mitigate any number of potentially crippling issues that could have wide-reaching global impacts.

To fully understand the importance of underwater vessel maintenance and the role it plays in the marine industry it’s important to understand what it entails and to do that a broader understanding of maritime engineering is also helpful.

Understanding Maritime Engineering

Maritime engineering is a catch all term encompassing the design and construction of boats, vessels, ships and submarines. The repair and maintenance of off-shore sites and much of the essential equipment used at sea also falls under this umbrella and it is this continuing process that ensures that safe, sea-worthy and efficient vessels move across the globe.

From the complex process of designing and constructing new vessels to the ongoing maintenance and repair of existing ships plus the retrofitting of much older models, marine engineering is a complicated and many-layered process encompassing thousands of vessel types, sizes, ages and geographic origins. From barges and submarines to cruise liners and offshore rigs, expert design and regular upkeep and maintenance can ensure safer working conditions for the nearly 2 million seafarers who keep the marine industry afloat.

Many types of roles and services fall under the phrase maritime engineering with the spectrum of practices and areas of expertise covering everything from design and consultancy on conceptual plans and builds to refitting, retrofitting and the expert repair of ocean-going vessels.

Maintenance at sea and particularly those repairs and fixes dealing with issues below the waterline are often more complex and potentially hazardous. Regular checks and identification of potential problems before they escalate and require a dry dock environment can save delays and unnecessary financial outlay.

Understanding Underwater Vessel Maintenance and Repairs

Underwater vessel maintenance and repairs most commonly covers the tasks, services and procedures that contend with issues and maintenance below the waterline, although it does also include those jobs at or above the waterline as well.

In simplest terms, regular maintenance and repairs can increase the lifespan of a vessel, improve fuel efficiencies and result in fewer large scale fixes that require a dry dock setting.

It is vital that alongside frequent, scheduled checks to spot issues before they get worse, any underwater repairs and/or maintenance are undertaken by an expert with experience in dealing in this potentially hazardous environment.

Vital underwater vessel maintenance and repairs usually include:

Underwater examinations and assessments –  Routine inspections where vessels and fixed state platforms like those used for oil drilling are examined below the waterline by expert divers to assess potential issues and to identify any damage requiring immediate attention.

Hull Cleaning – where any naturally occurring building up on a vessel is cleaned away to avoid larger problems. If left untreated, build up like this from being in the water 98% of the time, can result in harder calcification, barnacle growth and corrosion which can be hugely damaging and could affect everything from sonar to fuel efficiency.

Propeller Polishing – in which a vessel’s propeller is cleaned and polished with the aim of limiting build-up, calcification, corrosion damage to improve performance. This procedure is usually undertaken around twice a year and can reduce instances of dry dock repair and downtime which is inefficient and costly.

Installation and Upkeep of Communication and Navigation Equipment – to implement a new or maintain an existing system of communication and/or navigation to ensure continuity of service and to spot any problems before they escalate. Limiting the chance of a more serious issue occurring mid-voyage when repairs would be more complex and costly.

Pre-Purchase Condition Inspections & Inventories of Hazardous Materials – essential procedures that should always be undertaken by an experienced professional with the ability to accurately assess and report on key findings and vital information prior to a sale, purchase or audit.

BWTS and Scrubber Installations and Management – correct installation, monitoring and repair of BWTS and exhaust scrubber products are essential to maintain a vessel’s adherence to marine conventions and environmental guidelines.

Regular repairs using an underwater marine maintenance specialist are proven to limit downtime, negative environmental impacts and reduce overall running costs with problems identified early and rectified before they become major concerns.

Marine engineers and particularly those specialising in underwater vessel repairs, can maintain and service everything from cruise ships and cargo vessels to rigs, platforms and tankers. Saving owners and ship management companies time and money and reducing the need for costly dry docking, off-hire or decommissioning periods.

Well maintained, repaired and serviced vessels are naturally safer ones and less likely to cause adverse marine and ecological issues through faulty systems and corrosive chemical or fuel leaks.

Final thoughts

How important are underwater marine services and repairs in the maritime industry?

The simple answer is that they are absolutely essential, no matter the type of vessel, ship, boat or rig. Keeping them running smoothly, operating efficiently and minimising any major issues occurring through lack of upkeep has huge positive impacts across the board.

Global trade is less likely to be negatively impacted and well-maintained vessels are safer to work, live and travel on. A vessel in good condition is also less likely to cause negative environmental issues with accidental spills or leaks of hazardous chemicals, fuel or untreated waste.

Across the world some national economies rely almost entirely on the marine industry to transport their exports and import goods and services. Any interruption to this could mean colossal financial upheaval and a lack of resources, food, medicine and essential supplies.

Maritime engineering and marine services including underwater maintenance and repairs are vitally important to ensure safe, reliable transport and continuous supply worldwide.

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