Salvage supervisor updates media


Wed., Aug. 22 videotaped brief and interview with Capt. Bert Marsh
U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

Also see corresponding presentation slides


Marsh: As was mentioned, my name is Bert Marsh, and I'm the Supervisor of Salvage for the U.S. Navy. I've been involved in the Ehime Maru project recovery effort basically since back in February shortly after the disaster. I came out and helped in the initial search effort. One of our ROVs helped in the initial finding of the Ehime Maru. I've been involved in the feasibility study that was conducted. I followed up with developing the salvage plan, and now I'm out here with the Rockwater 2 in going through the process of executing that plan.

Why I'm here really is to explain to you where we're at, where we've gotten in the last two weeks, and why the Rockwater 2 is currently sitting at Pier 1 down in Honolulu.

If you take a look at this poster right now, we've stolen it from the Honolulu Advertiser, this is really a compendium of the entire process -- the salvage plan that we developed. What you see in here is the first step, trying to pass underneath, messenger wires underneath the hull of the vessel. What we have right now is we've had difficulties in getting the messenger wires underneath, so we are going to a slightly different method to pass those messenger wires.

In the salvage business there is a standard saying, essentially, and that is that whenever you go to do a salvage job you always try to bring everything you can imagine you would need. When you get to that point, then you take about 50 percent more in order to make sure you can do the job when you get there. So in that sense we have come with an extra planned method of passing those messengers. That's what I'm going to explain to you today is the process of how we're going to pass the messengers -- slightly differently than we planned originally.

Take a look at this next poster right here. What you see is vice the idea of the coil tube drilling, passing the messengers for us, what we're going to do is put another lifting swing on board the Rockwater 2. That lifting swing will be passed under the stern of the Ehime Maru and we will physically lift the stern up enough so that we can pass messenger wires underneath here.

This chart also shows you that what we will be doing is, what we have done already prior to coming in, was we have placed a number of what's called clumps, which in diver's parlance simply means a heavy weight that we use to establish a descent line, so that when you go on a diving operation you go straight down and you're right where you want to be and you're not off some place else. The clumps act the same way. They establish a position on the bottom of the ocean.

We had several clumps. These two right here initially were behind in these positions. They have been moved. What we're doing is moving them into a position so we can actually pull on this stern lifting plate. The stern lifting plate will be loaded out in the next day and a half, two days, while the Rockwater 2 is in port. We will marry together, put together a fitting that actually goes on the end of this, a very heavy metal fitting to go onto that that can be made up on the bottom of the ocean. That's the process right now.

We've been out there trying to position all of these clumps for quite some time. I want to give you a perspective, if I can, on why that's so difficult. One of the guys out on board the ship, as we were trying to position these clumps... You've got to understand, these clumps have to be lined up essentially perfectly perpendicular to the ship. The entire design of all of this cradle is

predicated on the idea that the [strap] will come up just exactly where we planned down to what's the length of that wire. That length has to match up with where that frame comes down. If it doesn't, then we've got a real problem. So you have to have the slings in the right place. They have to be perpendicular.

A good analogy somebody came up with on the ship was that if you're trying to put those clump weights down there at 2,000 feet, at the bottom of the ocean, if you put yourself on top of not just the Empire State Building, but took another Empire State Building and put it on top of you, climbed to the top of both of those, took a fishing line with a typical little fishing weight on it and tried to cast it off, come down to the sidewalk below and hit a six inch by six inch block. That's what they've been trying to do out there. Put those in that kind of position. And oh by the way, the building's moving all the time. To give you a little perspective on the operation and why it takes so long.

So in essence what we are doing is shifting gears slightly and we're going to use a very well proven method for passing slings underneath a vessel, and that is to lift her at the stern and pass messenger wires underneath the hull.

As I mentioned before, the fittings that we're going to be using and that we will be installing on the main lift wires -- and this is a difference. I'll explain it in a couple of minutes when I show a slide that shows the frame and how we will be using the cranes on the Ehime Maru as opposed to the lift wires, the large wires, what we call the fat wires -- 115 millimeter, 4.5 inch wires. We will actually be using those wires to do this stern lift. And there are fittings down here that go together that have to be made up at depth, meaning that the ROV has to put it together down there.

Now those fittings are purposely designed for deep ocean work. The company's name happens to be Delmar. But what they do is they have come up with ways to make this fitting, this one right here, is actually buoyant so that it means that it stands proud of or off of the bottom. It literally is standing up. It's not too buoyant to float up on us, but it's just buoyant enough that it will be up off the bottom. That will allow the ROV to guide in this piece into that piece and close a bale over it.

Now when you're trying to do that with an ROV at 2,000 feet, one of the ROV operators came up with a little analogy. If you think about, if you're trying to do something in that kind of situation, go get your, any of you that ski, snow skis.

Take some snow ski mittens where you have no fingers, your hands are all together; take those, close one eye, and sit down -- oh, by the way you're at 60 atmosphere besides -- and try to threat a needle. Think about trying to do that. Especially with your eye closed, once you lose your depth perception. That's what they will be doing down there, making that connection up. They are designed specifically for ROVs working on the bottom, so that's why we've got them already.

Next one.

As I mentioned earlier, basically we will be using the fat wire or the lifting wire to do this. This is a change from the way we originally thought we could pass the messengers with using what we call the coil tube. What we will be doing is hooking up the lift wires themselves and picking up on the stern and then passing a messenger underneath.

Ultimately that messenger will then help us pull the plates through, the ifting plates themselves. The lifting plates have to go through, if you were at the first press conference or looked at it, basically you have to go through end frame 61 and frame 15. Sixty-one is the one that's up near the pilothouse. If you went straight almost down from the pilothouse, that's frame 61. Back in the stern area in the engine room, that's frame 15. And as I mentioned earlier, we have to line those up essentially perpendicular to the hull and in the right spot.

Next one, please.

Though we've had some difficulty working the messengers or working the coil tube drilling under, the sub-sea system pump that we have used has been very effective out here. We've been able to pressurize seawater and press it through and actually dig holes with it very easily.

So what we will be doing is using that same sub-sea pump that we will place on the bottom, and it will have a connection on it. I have the pump drawn here. But there will be a connection from it into the sling as planned before; the slings will then have jenny nozzles on them. So we will be pulling from the surface with a crane on the messenger, and jetting at the same time to pull the straps through. These are the lifting straps, the metal straps, which you probably got a chance to see if you toured the barge earlier.

This essentially shows the same thing, from a stern perspective. What we will have done is steer ourselves into a position where the messenger wire has already been passed, and then we will be bringing the lifting plates into play with the crane. We will be pulling up with the crane on the messenger, pulling the plate through, and also jetting at the same time.

So that's the process that has to go on, and those are the next major steps we have to go through. Let's go on to the next one, please.

Once we have the messengers passed and the plates in place, our next step after that, in fact what you will probably see is once we have that done, that completed, that step completed, we will be returning to port again with the Rockwater 2. At that time what we will be doing is bringing this [lift fork] up, the frame, and the bottom frame together. We'll be marrying them together while we're actually in port. We'll start pier side to get the top frame all rigged, then we will go out to the shallow water site that you can see from the top of this barge, and put the bottom frame into it. Once we get all that together we have about, in the air weight that's about 101 tons all told. So we will be suspending that beneath the Rockwater 2, and get underway for the deep-water site at that point.

Arriving back out there we have to lower it all down, disconnect the top and the bottom frames and reposition it... We'll actually lower it down outside of where the Ehime Maru is. This part right here is about 10 tons buoyant, so it will float above the Ehime Maru. At that time we will with the crane move it over, and then we have the straps to make up. Once those straps are made up and you come back down with the top frame, marry that back together, and again the ROV has to do a specific job right there, torquing a pin back in, actually marry the top frame to the bottom frame.

At that point we're ready to lift. And there we'll be into the situation of looking for the right kind of weather to lift in.

That's getting a little bit ahead of it. The next step for us, as I say, is getting the messengers passed and then the lifting straps through. You should see us back in port after that. We basically determined that that was going to be the best way to do this next step. I would think that the next time you see me we'll be somewhere back into the idea of doing the frames, putting the frames together.

That's about all my remarks. We still look to be doing the lifting in mid-September. That's still our plan. Weather is going to be a factor and we'll have to see how that plays out.

I think as you've called and talked to the PAO people, the process will be event-driven. There are certain milestones we have to reach. As we reach those milestones the PAO people will know it and they'll be advising you of where we're at as we go through it.

That's about it. I'll go ahead and take questions.

Question: The main difference between what you were doing and what you are doing... Before you were not going to lift the ship at all. You were trying to drill underneath the ship and place the straps doing that, correct?

Marsh: That's correct. This method using the coil tube drilling.

Question: So then why the need for the lift at this point? What made you say we can't do it like this. We're going to have to lift the stern.

Marsh: Essentially the coil tube drilling was the first application of that technology in this situation. We did some testing ashore. However, it couldn't exactly duplicate what we saw at sea, and we have sort of a time limit on ourselves, that we can't go forever trialing something. So we went ahead and made the decision that we would transition into this other method of lifting the stern.

It is very much a proven method in salvage. They did tell me, I should have told you something about my salvage background and I guess I blew right by that, didn't I?

I've been doing salvage for 25, 26 years. The last one I did was... The first one I did was a job off of Kaneohe, actually, here, picking a tanker off there in 1975. So I've been involved with the Exxon Valdez, I directed the Egypt Air / Alaskan Air, some of our work on the USS Cole. I was in the Persian Gulf during the Gulf War, got flown out to the Princeton for her salvage and stuff, so I do have quite an extensive background in salvage.

Question: What risks are involved with this? Why didn't you suspend it the first place?

Marsh: The principal risk is that you tend to stress the hull more than you would if you can pass the messengers. However what we found... When we came out to do our initial assessment with the ROVs, at that time... This picture really shows it from that standpoint. At that time we had the forward mast up, we had the middle mast up, we had guide wires going back and forth between them. So we weren't able to fly our ROVs down into this deck area very easily.

This time around, one because we have three ROVs out there. We have one of them that's smaller. We actually put it on the deck right here. So we have a better feel for what the strength in the hull is, one. Two, we have already dug a considerable amount of sand out from underneath the vessel. And essentially, three is we are combining the two methods because we are still going to be using the water jetting technique to help us pass those under. So we have a very short timeframe that we will have to lift to stern. Initially the plan was that if we were unable to use the sub-sea pump, if we had some problem with that, then you would have to lift the stern all the way up and keep it up until you passed the actual straps, not messengers. There's quite a difference between bringing a strap that's almost five foot wide, a big piece of metal, underneath the ship, as opposed to a small wire.

So what we're doing is we sort of combined the two a little bit. We will still be using the sub-sea pump to help us jet underneath with the straps.

Question: Can you elaborate on that? You said you would continue using the jetting. The jetting will be used when you've raised, I assume you've raised the stern of the ship enough to get the wires. What then is the purpose of continuing to use the jetting technique?

Marsh: At that point we can let the vessel back down. We do not have to hold it while we get those large plates underneath. That's what I was trying to explain.

It's a difference of if you pull this diameter wire through there as opposed to a plate that's this thick, there's much more friction that you're going to be opposing. So we're going to be jetting through those plates actually underneath here. But we can set the vessel back down when we do that.

Question: So the jets are going to be used just with the plates and not with the wires.

Marsh: Correct.

Question: So how long will the vessel be lifted up then?

Marsh: I can't really tell you that. That would be a total guess from that standpoint. We will try to keep it as short as possible, but...

Question: Is that hours or minutes?

Marsh: (Laughter) It will be in the hours, yes. Probably.

Question: Explain a little bit what happened with the coil drilling that made you conclude that it wasn't working, (inaudible).

Marsh: We were actually very much able to drill with it. We were able to poke holes a lot. But the issue is trying to get the coil tubing to go down under the Ehime Maru and come up where we want it. To turn again and come back up. Essentially what we think is we have a little softer soil that didn't support the curvature coming back up again. But that's somewhat supposition on our part. As I said, we did a test in Houston, Texas, but that was ashore, because we didn't have all the sub-sea equipment put together yet at that point.

Question: I think you had contingent plans originally.

Marsh: Yes, we did have a... In any salvage operation if you can come up with alternatives you do that. Knowing that Mother Nature, the weather...

Question: What I want to know is, are there any differences between the original contingent plan and this time, other plan.

Marsh: The only difference is that as a contingency we had initially planned to lift the stern and pass the entire strap, the metal strap all the way through with the stern up in the air. In fact we now know that we have a very effective means of using the sub-sea pump. Those work very well. They're pushing a lot of water through. We can vary the pounds per square inch to push basically, the pressure that it will push all the way from somewhere around 300 psi up to the 1400 psi. So we know that works and it works quite well.

With that then we know that we can go ahead and connect the hose up to the straps and use that method to get the straps underneath. So we have combined the two.

Question: In the last press conference you told us that you estimated that the probability of success was 80 percent. What is the probability of success now?

Marsh: We are still at 80 percent.

Question: Are there concerns about conserving a portion of the ship where (inaudible)? ...the ship's integrity?

Marsh: I don't see that kind of a concern because when we do lift the ship... In this case we will be lifting here a very small amount. We don't need very much to be able to snake a wire underneath it. So no, I do not consider that a specific problem from that standpoint. When we do lift the Ehime Maru the plan is, and it's what's generated in the environmental assessment, we will be picking her up and waiting for a period so that we can do a full ROV up close and personal camera view of all the damage that so we have a good assessment of what strength remains in her hull, and also if there are, unfortunately, any remains that would happen to come out, we will be prepared to recover at that time. That's part of the plan.

Question: Just as a follow up. You lift the stern. Can you tell us approximately how far, approximately how long if it's just a few hours? And also just clarify the idea is to just put the wires underneath, correct?

Marsh: Uh huh.

Question: And before the wires were going to be placed using the copper tubing pump?

Marsh: The coil tube was to drill its way to the other side of the vessel and come up. Then it had a head arrangement on it so you could attach wires to it, then you would pull that copper -- it's not copper tubing, it's actually coil tubing steel that will withstand 10,000 psi. Very, very solid tubing. That would pull back and bring the messenger wires through. But since we can't, it isn't out the other end so we didn't attach the messenger wires. We've transitioned to picking the stern up and then run the wires through. We'll be running the wires through with the ROV.

No, I can't tell you right now exactly how high we're going to lift that. It all depends no how much sediment we get. When we're doing work out there right now what we're running into a lot is, there's very minimal current, at least most of the day on the site. So when you disturb anything the silt basically sits up for half an hour or 45 minutes -- you can't see anything. It's just a blind, blur of brown on the screen. You have to wait until that clears enough so that the ROVs can see what they're up to again.

Question: Do you expect any delays in this?

Marsh: We still think we'll be in mid-September, and as I said, I can't get any more specific than that because the weather at that time will dictate a lot to us.

Question: So you've kind of calculated into the timeframe perhaps changing methods?

Marsh: When we came up with our alternatives we looked at that option. So yes, we knew the option existed and we have an idea how long it's going to take to do it, so we still think mid-September sometime. I can't be any more specific than that.

Question: Why are you lifting the stern? Why won't the other...

Marsh: We lift the stern basically because what they call the frame zero, which in naval architect parlance means the, here's another naval architect term, the after-perpendicular. That's one of the strength parts of the ship. Very strong part of the ship, which is why we go there.

Question: Do you think of this alternative method as a setback in the recovery operation?

Marsh: No, I don't. No, I don't. It would be had we not had an alternative ready to go. Yes, it would be. However, we had come up with an alternative and right now we have all the equipment we need on the island already and it's just a matter of swapping out. We did not have the capability to carry all of this alternative equipment for this method out with us because we were simply full. If you got a chance to see the ship as she pulled out the first time, there was hardly any place to walk on the deck, much less put any large equipment like the lifting strap that has to be put down.

So we left all of that in port. We've transitioned. We're going to come in and rig some of that, put everything else on the ship, and we'll go to sea with it and attempt to pass the strap.

Question: A couple of days?

Marsh: Right now we expect to go to sea in a couple of days, yes.

Question: You came back in port when?

Marsh: I think they came about 10:30. Pier 1 in Honolulu.

Question: In the initial plan you were going to have the messenger wires coming back through pulling back through to pull the lifting straps back through?

Marsh: Yes, and we will essentially still be doing that part once the messenger wires are underneath. Those messenger wires are there to be able to give...

If we go to... This will give you the picture.

Once the messenger wire is underneath essentially, we can set her back down. Then we will be pulling on the plate with the crane at the same time that we're jetting. You've got the force of the messenger wire, the crane pulling; and at the same time you're jetting.

Question: ...the height of the lifting ship. Your drawing that's underneath there, I believe. I just want to make sure, that drawing shows the ship being lifted at a pretty strained angle. That's just...

Marsh: That's just for the illustrative purposes, yes.

Question: Just very slightly lifted?

Marsh: Yes.

Question: May I understand the reason why drilling cannot go through is because the bottom material is too soft? Is it not that you hit a hard part or what is the reason?

Marsh: The reason, we think, and we don't have the opportunity to experiment. We don't really want to spend the time out there experimenting. What we think is when we have tried to turn the tube we have either been able to hit the hull of the Ehime Maru or we have gotten out past that and the tube, instead of continuing to turn actually bent back over again. So it went out straight.

We've actually had at maximum somewhere in the neighborhood of about, almost 200 foot of tubing out, which means it went out under the Ehime Maru, stayed under the surface of the ocean bottom, and went straight on.

We do know that we were able to go straight, but it's getting it to do that last turn all the way up again. We were able to actually have it turn on itself in the air. Sitting with the barge that we brought this equipment out on, out at Victor Piers here in Pearl Harbor, we ran the coil tube out and actually had it bend back on itself. That was in air.

Question: Then are you...

Marsh: I've got to get back to the ship, and I thank you very much for your attention.
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