A magnetic patch made by Miko Marine AS of Norway has been used to seal a leak in the hull of the nuclear waste freighter Puma . The Danish-flagged ship was in danger of sinking on Saturday evening (18th December) when it experienced a leak in its engine room while sailing south along the coast of Norway following its delivery of 333 tons of spent nuclear fuel to Murmansk.
The ship appealed to the Norwegian Coastguard for help and was allowed to anchor west of the island of Sørøya in the far north of Norway. An inspection by the Norwegian Coastal Administration vessel KV Farm revealed a burst valve on a pipe supplying sea water to the ship’s sanitation system. The crew was unable to stop the flow of water into the engine room until the leak was sealed by a magnetic patch provided by the KV Farm. The Miko Patch immediately stopped the in-flow of water and enabled the Puma to be escorted to Hammerfest for permanent repair.
Packs of magnetic patches are carried aboard Norwegian Coastal Administration vessels so that they are available to make a repair with the minimum of delay. By re-ballasting the Puma it was possible to trim the ship to bring the leak above the water line. This enabled the patch to be applied without the use of divers and to be reinforced by powerful permanent magnets. After the 30-nautical mile open sea voyage to Hammerfest the patch was still found to be secure and maintaining the seal.
The low cost of the patch was in marked contrast to the cost of the disaster that could have followed if the ship had sunk. Norwegian environmental groups are now accusing the ship of having sailed too close to the coast during its passage to Murmansk. They are using the incident to highlight the cost and severity of the disaster that would have occurred if the leak had happened a few days earlier when the magnetic patch might not have been available.
Commenting on the use of magnetic patches, Nicolai Michelsen, managing director of Oslo-based Miko Marine AS said; “Our products have been used to save ships and offshore platforms from sinking on numerous occasions. Afterwards people invariably remark upon the trivial cost of the patch compared with the costs of cleaning-up an environmental disaster that might have occurred if it had not been available. It is, however, vital for the patch to be applied quickly and the only way to guarantee this is if the ship has a Salvage Pack of its own patches on board,” he said.
“Magnetic patches are carried by Norwegian Coastal Administration vessels and they are aboard every ship in the French navy but we believe that the time has come for legislation to make their carriage compulsory aboard certain types of vessel. Although it is obvious that I would want to encourage more patch sales, we have seen enough incidents to know that the benefits of their use go far beyond our commercial gain. Ships with a high potential for pollution and vessels operating in ice are obvious candidates for compulsory carriage but we also believe that the insurance industry should also be thinking about how it would benefit if it was to specify the carriage of emergency repair patches,” said Michelsen.