Spain’s new S-80 submarines, under construction, will be able to operate at depths of at least 350 meters. If one gets into trouble, however, the Spanish Navy’s only ship set up for rescue and recovery can only hold its position in depths of around 80 meters. To remedy this, El Pais reports that the Spanish Navy is building a Military Action Ship for Underwater Intervention, (whose acronym in Spanish is BAM IS.)
The €192 million BAM IS, including equipment, will feature dynamic positioning, side-scan radar, two hyperbaric chambers, two remotely-operated underwater vehicles (ROVs), two underwater communication systems, emergency supply systems and a helipad to evacuate the injured and receive supplies. It is based on the Meteoro-class offshore patrol vessel design the Spanish navy already operates, but will have a higher tonnage (5,000 tons compared to 2,670) and double decks.
In addition to its capabilities as a submarine rescue ship, it will also be outfitted for multiple tasks. Searching for wrecked fishing vessels or merchant ships, as well as for airplane and helicopter crashes at sea is much more common than submarine accidents. The navy also aims to use the BAM IS to support underwater operations, such as deactivating underwater bombs and removing or placing obstacles.
The ROVs on the ship will also be able to identify and scan for shipwrecks off the Spanish coast. Being able to locate and survey these shipwrecks will help avoid a repeat of what happened to the frigate Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, whose treasure was raided by US-based company Odyssey Marine Exploration in 2007. It was not until 2012, after a protracted legal battle, that the US Supreme Court ordered the company to return the 594,000 silver and gold coins it took from the shipwreck to Spain.
Once the building order is signed at the beginning of next year, construction on the new BAM IS will begin at the Navantia shipyard in Puerto Real in Cádiz province.
Thanks to Irwin Bryan for contributing to this post.