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Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC)

Seabee Divers Salvage Overturned Barge

by Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Waters
04 January 2024 NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain- Seabee divers assigned to Underwater Construction Team 1 (UCT 1) provided support to Naval Station Rota port operations by facilitating the removal of an overturned painting barge from the waters around the piers from November 13, 2023 to December 8, 2023.

In early November a painting barge overturned during storm next to one of the piers on Naval Station Rota. UCT 1 was tasked with disassembling and recovering the super structure of the barge so it could be salvaged and repaired.

“We received the initial tasking and had about a week, so we started planning and executing,” said Lt. Joe Bevilacqua, the Officer-in-Charge for the UCT 1 detachment. “Our biggest concerns were damage to the structure and structural integrity before we started.”

In order to salvage the paint barge, the divers would have to remove all of the bolts holding the superstructure of the barge together to allow it to be lifted out of the water piece by piece. They conducted an initial SCUBA dive to inspect the barge to determine the best way to separate the pieces for removal. They encountered issues like low visibility and overtightened bolts, but the biggest issue they dealt with was the size of the superstructure.

“It looks big on paper, it looks big on land, but it looks massive underwater,” said Bevilacqua. “You have three feet of visibility, so your hand will disappear in front of your face if you stick it out to far. Between the visibility and the size, it was really hard to familiarize the divers with the project until they had all be down there at least once to get their bearings.

The barge had to be disassembled in this manner due to its weight of over 180,000 pounds being too heavy for most cranes to be able to lift it out of the water. Additionally, the disassembly is less likely to damage the superstructure than trying to lift the whole barge at once, leading to a greater chance of it being able to be salvaged.

UCT 1 conducted 27 dives, totaling 4137 minutes, under the guidance of Construction Mechanic 1st Class Michael Dupray, the project supervisor, and Steelworker 2nd Class Cooper Rekstis, the crew leader. Due to their efforts, they saved over 2.5 million dollars in organic and U.S. Navy 6th Fleet assets. The barge recovery is still ongoing and is expected to be completed before the end of their deployment.