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Spain to purchase a wreck rescue and search unit

The Spanish Navy’s latest project involves the purchase of a specialised vessel at a cost of €192 million, which will be able to perform rescue and search roles. Interestingly, one of the tasks it will perform is the search for historic shipwrecks. The project has already received the green light from the Ministry of Finance
Published: November 9, 2020 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 21:30
Spain to purchase a wreck rescue and search unit

The Spanish Navy’s latest project involves the purchase of a specialised vessel at a cost of €192 million, which will be able to perform rescue and search roles. Interestingly, one of the tasks it will perform is the search for historic shipwrecks.

The project has already received the green light from the Ministry of Finance and it is expected that the completion of the vessel, and its entry into service, will take place in 2024. The ship will be able to locate historic shipwrecks off the coast of Spain, as well as search for and carry underwater assistance in the event of maritime and aviation disasters.

The Spanish have concluded that they cannot afford a situation where they have purchased a new S-80 submarine for a sum of €3.9 billion, but do not have a vessel in their fleet capable of carrying out rescue operations in the event of an accident, such as was the case with the Russian ship Kursk (2000) or the Argentine Ara San Juan (2017).

The only rescue ship the Spanish navy currently has at its disposal is the Neptune (A-20). Unfortunately, this 45-year-old vessel can hardly be described as anything other than a relic, which has probably only been taken out of service through someone else’s oversight.

The ageing Neptune has a number of limitations that disqualify it as a useful tool that could be successfully used in underwater salvage or wreck exploration. It is unable to take on board an underwater salvage vessel or ROV.

On the other hand, when it is not possible to cast all four anchors, it also cannot maintain a fixed position to supply, for example, air and food. Moreover, additional necessary conditions are a calm sea and a depth not exceeding 50-80 metres.

Another important aspect for Spaniards is the possibility of searching for and exploring historical shipwrecks. Researchers from the Iberian Peninsula have so far discovered 710 wrecks located off the coasts of Cuba, Panama, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas and the American Atlantic coast, among others. Many of these vessels sailed to Europe with valuable cargo, so it should come as no surprise that the Spanish are keen to be able to get to them.

This unit can help us find and, if necessary, recover wrecks. The last time the Spanish navy helped us in this way was when we located ships lost in the Battle of Trafalgar. Unfortunately, their current equipment is very old and outdated,” said Carlos Leon, a marine archaeologist working with the Spanish government

The contract for the construction of the vessel will be signed early next year and the entire vessel is expected to be built at the Navantia shipyard, in Puerto Real, Cadiz province. It is expected to take 36 months to complete. From the information available, it is known that the ship itself will cost €167m, with a further €25m going towards the specialised equipment it will subsequently be fitted with.

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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