The Russian Navy’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, sustained damage when the drydock it was floating in started to sink.
According to a report published in Military Times, the drydock “sank early morning in Murmansk, dropping a crane on the deck of the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier.” The crane dropped, resulting in a hole in the hull of the ship.
The 215-square-foot hole did not impact any vital systems of the ship, according to statements made by the United Shipbuilding Corporation’s leadership. United Shipbuilding Corporation is responsible for the operations of the drydock.
United Shipbuilding Corporation’s chief, Alexei Rakhmanov, said that the accident may have been related to a power surge that occurred as the ship was leaving the drydock. A pump regulating water into the dock’s ballast tanks failed, which led to a crane being dropped onto the deck.
Ballast tanks are used to raise and lower a dock, allowing the ship inside to enter the water and transit to open sea upon completion of work. Ballast tanks are filled with water to lower the dock and emptied of water to raise it. Failure of the pump could cause the dock to abruptly lower into the water and result in other equipment, such as the crane, falling onto or hitting the ship.
The crane left a hole, roughly 4 by 5 meters in the hull of the ship.
One person is still missing and four others are injured. Murmansk governor, Marina Kovtun, made a statement on Rossiya 24, a TV stationed owned by the Russian government, about the missing shipyard workers. An official press release has not been provided via the Murmansk Regional Government’s website.
United Shipbuilding Corporation says that they do not expect the incident to significantly delay the planned repairs and maintenance to the ship. The damage to the drydock which caused the sinking is of concern for the Russian Navy, as it is reportedly the only facility capable of handling such large ships.
Media reports called the incident a “massive shipyard accident” and question the state-sponsored Russian media reports that are downplaying the damage. Many are looking at the history of the Admiral Kuznetsov, remembering images of the ship sailing amid billowing black smoke from its stacks.
“According to our initial information, the damage from the falling crane and from the ship listing when the dock sank is not substantial,” the BBC quoted Rakhmanov. Known for playing their cards pretty close to the vest, Russian authorities and the media they control are maintaining that modernization and overhaul of the carrier will continue without issues.
Admiral Kuznetsov has faced its share of engineering and structural issues, as well as previous accidents. During a 2016 mission in the Mediterranean, two aircraft crashed while operating with the ship. A MiG fighter jet crashed while trying to land and a Su-33 fighter jet rolled off the ship when a landing cable snapped.
In 2009, the ship experienced a fire that killed a crewmember and an at-sea oil spill. But mishaps are not the only problems the ship faces. The engineering systems onboard have caused problems for the 1980s-era carrier. In fact, the ship reportedly always operated with a tugboat nearby, due to the unreliable condition of its propulsion and other engineering systems.
Russian authorities are keeping the specifics of the incident under wraps, only saying that it will not impact the planned maintenance and upgrades to the ship. But as reports come out in other media sources, it looks like the damage is expected to be more extensive. All we know for sure is that the accident is another in the disastrous legacy of Russia’s only aircraft carrier. It is a tragedy for the injured and missing workers and their families.