New AMEC pontoons to make towing decommissioned subs safer in Northwest Russia

Publish date: October 17, 2008

ST. PETERSBURG – Northwest Russia’s Nerpa Shipbuilding and Repair yard has successfully completed state tests of pontoons that will be used in helping to safely transport decommissioned nuclear submarines to dismantlement.

The test represents the first time such vessels have been towed by Russia with the use of specially designed support pontoons designed to avert a sinking similar to that of the K-159 incident in August 2003.

The transport was carried out at night, making conditions more difficult, but the experiment came off successfully.  

The pontoon project was financed by Great Britain through the Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation (AMEC) programme, the B-port news agency quoted Nerpa as saying. Nerpa built the pontoons. Analogous systems for transporting boats that cannot travel on their own power do not exist in Russia.

But in 2006, the Dutch firm Dockwise was contracted to move the Russian K-60 decommissioned submarine with one of its so called heavy transport vessels by Norway in accord with the AMEC programme. Such vessels have submergible decks, which lift derelict submarines out of the water.

Each of the four support pontoons developed by Nerpa can hold 200 tons. For extra durability, the pontoons are double cushioned and two decks. The pontoons themselves balance a submarine during transport independent of weather conditions and wave height, and provide seaworthiness to even damaged submarines in wave conditions of more than four points.

A first generation decommissioned submarine was chosen for the experiment. The operation was undertaken within the framework of dismantling the November class submarine, project number 291, which is financed in various degrees by the U.K and Norway under the Global Partnership programme. After the experiment with the pontoons is certified by a government commission, they will be passes on to the emergency and rescue operations wing of Russia’s Northern Fleet.