Drydock Failure Damages Russia's Only Aircraft Carrier

The Kuznetsov in the PD-50 drydock in Murmansk (file image courtesy wikimapia / famski)

By The Maritime Executive 10-30-2018 10:40:43

Russia's sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, was damaged during repairs Tuesday when the drydock holding her sank. One shipyard worker went missing and four were injured in the accident. 

According to reports, a 70-tonne crane toppled from the drydock's wing wall onto Kuznetsov's deck, leaving a hole measuring four to five meters across. A response team succesfully floated and removed the Kuznetsov from the drydock during the sinking. 

No "vitally important parts" of the carrier were damaged, according to United Shipbuilding Corporation head Aleksei Rakhmanov. "This is about damage to metal structures, this is a standard job that will take a week and a half for our welders," he told TASS. Yevgeny Gladyshev, a spokesperson for the shipyard, said that the damage would not disrupt the schedule for her repairs. 

Kuznetsov is scheduled to be out of service for a deep overhaul until 2021. The extensive scope of work includes the replacement of her notoriously failure-prone boilers: The Cold War-era vessel has a long history of breakdowns, and she has historically traveled with a fleet tug when she sails abroad. 

The failed drydock, the PD-50, is a key facility at the 82nd Repair Shipyard in Murmansk. The Soviet-era dock measures 330 meters by 88 meters, has a capacity of 80,000 tonnes and was equipped with two tower cranes. Among other noteworthy projects, the PD-50 received the wreckage of the ill-fated nuclear submarine Kursk after its sinking in 2000. The drydock will likely be refloated and repaired, though the timeline for its salvage is uncertain. 

Russian oil and gas company Rosneft is the majority shareholder of the 82nd Repair Shipyard, and state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation is considering a lawsuit against Rosneft for expenses related to the casualty. "The lawsuit will [cover] those damages that were caused as a result of the fall of the crane and the abnormal descent of the dock," said USC's Rakhmanov, speaking to TASS. 

Rakmanov suggested that an electrical failure led to the "abnormal immersion" of the dock's left (port) side. He noted that while the sinking is unlikely to delay repairs to the Kuznetsov, it will impact the schedule for work on the other military vessels that were awaiting their turn in drydock.