Since the 19th century, doomed ships have been taking at least part of their oily cargoes or the contents of their bunkers to the bottom, trapping large amounts of potentially valuable product and leaving a long-term pollution threat.
Salvage operations are often tricky due to the need to either access the fuel without disturbing the wreck, for example by locating existing handling equipment, or by taking the risk of cutting into the hull without losing control of the contents.
Now, Miko Marine AS, based in Oslo, Norway, has announced a product it calls the Moskito, which aims to greatly simplify oil removal when employed by a diver or remotely operated vehicle (ROV). The company was founded in 1996 with the concept of using a magnetic patch for stopping seawater leaking into a floating vessel — or to stop oil leaking from the vessel into the sea. The resulting product was called the Miko Plaster. Miko uses the same magnetic technology to fix the Moskito onto the hull, where it functions as an automated tool kit for cutting precise holes and installing a valve.
Moskito drills, seals and mounts a valve to the hull in one single uninterrupted operation, without interaction with a diver or ROV. When one sealed connection is established, the Moskito can begin with another without taking the tool to the surface.
Emil Solerød Jahren, product development manager for Miko Marine, explains that Moskito is designed to be extremely lightweight at 70 kg, and to have roughly neutral buoyancy. Because it is very compact, it can be easily transported and launched without the need for a launch and recovery system or a tether management system. Thus, it can be used by divers or ROVs.
“It is all electric with a single electrical umbilical and can be controlled by any computer running Microsoft Windows,” Jahren said.
Oil removal is the intended usage for the Moskito. Chemical injection, steaming injection or even establishment of lifting points are possible with the tool as it is built, said Jahren.
Miko Marine launched its Moskito research and development project in 2012, quickly attracting interest from the Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA), which had been grappling with the problem of pollution caused by oil leaks. The NCA decided to support Miko Marine’s quest to find a solution and the two organizations joined forces with the backing of Innovation Norway, a government-sponsored research and development organization. Core members of the team behind the development of the Moskito had been a part of oil removal operations in the past such as the German cruiser Blücher, one of the numerous World War II-era wrecks along the coast of Norway.
In operation, Moskito’s three magnetic feet are placed against the steel hull. An operator, who will control the procedure on the surface through a dual video link, activates a 3-inch-diameter, electrically powered tank cutter drill. The Moskito can cut through walls up to 1.5 inches thick. Once the cutter has pierced the tank, the cut disc falls away inside and is followed into the tank by a patented spring latch coupling. This automatically connects and locks a hose to the tank without allowing any of its contents to escape. With the hose securely connected, a pump can be activated to remove oil at a rate of up to about 12 cubic meters per hour. Multiple units can be operated in close proximity if faster extraction is required.
While saluting Miko Marine for developing an advanced product, Richard E. Fredricks, executive director of the American Salvage Association, said it does not represent an entirely new idea. For example, he cites the work of Bergen, Norway-based Frank Mohn AS, which previously developed comparable products such as the ROLS, for the remote offloading of sunken vessels. “I’m sure the Moskito offers its own refinements but the Frank Mohn product has been through a number of refinements since it was first introduced,” Fredricks said.
Jack Vilas III, general manager of Miko Marine US LLC, said Moskito is much simpler than the alternatives. “If you weren’t using the Moskito, you would have to weld a hot tap into place or drill a hole and then put in a hot tap,” Vilas said. He said there are numerous wrecks in North America, particularly in the environmentally sensitive Great Lakes, which could be candidates for employing Moskito.