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Rockwater II

The Abyss – I was Deepwater II

My son and I had a wonderfull oportunity. My friend JohnVV invited us to his workplace: Rockwater II.

Really, he works there. He is a Merchant Marine R/O veteran and he got fed up with his work at the local subsidiary of a renowned UK radar equipment company, so he joined his old team on this marvellous ship.



Rockwater II was in Singapore in late March 2009. John had a shift period aboard, it was a rainy Saturday evening. This was our day.

We had some difficulties finding the Changi pier but we finally got it. It was dark already when we came on board.

The first thing that struck me was the size of the ship. And it is almost square, like a big steel box.

Although the specs in the Internet say that max speed is 11 knts, John told that in fact it is only 9 knts. That’s quite slow, and it is really slow if you come from Sri Lanka and your next diving job is in Ushuaia/Tierra del Fuego.

The schematic shows the problem. Rockwater  II has two propellers for backward/forward and three front propellers for left/right. She is made for standing still under operation. More like a floating working platform.

John is responsible for the countless redundancy systems for the motion control. Apart from that, he fixes the three or four cranes as well as the various toasters and coffee machines. Although there is a radio shack, no one is there. John said that he would soon get a back up electrician for fixing the many household appliances for the 100 crew members aboard.

Just type in “Rockwater 2”, “Rockwater II”, “Deepwater 2” or “Deepwater II” in Google for getting a huge amount of information about this ship.

Here comes the pantry, probably the most frequented place on the ship. John is demonstrating the 24/7 cold buffet.




John provided a full size guided session from her bottom to the top.

I liked the engine section most. Nice room, most interesting for a mechanical engineer. Funny thing. Five MAN ASL 25/30 engines for five 2,000 kW generators. No mechanical propellers but instead five electrical thrusters. The engines run on diesel and not on ship fuel, this is said to be more reliable. But also more expensive. They are burning 10,000 liters a day.

Then the pressure bunkers for the divers.If you want to get the feeling of it, watch the movie “The Abyss”. A pressure diver classic from my student days. Just thrilling.


View into one of the pressure chambers. John told me that pressure divers are earning 1,000 British Pounds per day. Back in the good old days – when right was right and left was wrong – this was a lot of money, you could have bought a Leyland Mini Cooper for that amount. But pressure divers suffer from ear fungus. And they have to stay for three weeks at a time in this steel bunker. The only way out is into the cold sea water for cranking some bolts.

John told me about the irony that he is sometimes feeling about the project. One often brings the whole 4,000 tons of steel and 100 people to some remote place for just one single man using his ratchet on a bolt, all done 100m under water, in the cold and dark sea.

I do not know why but I must always think about the movie “The Abyss’.



This is a view into the bedroom. Four materasses on narrow steel supports. The pressure divers stay 3 weeks there, in one row. John introduced WLAN into the chambers, the divers can now do emails in their spare time.



This is a simulation of probably one of the most luckiest moments during the work shift of a pressure diver. The hatch is open, he can leave the chamber system. You can see John here, and  ????? Martinho. Let’s go for a beer.



This is the huge main switch board for the pressure chamber. Somewhat old already but it works. The most impressing thing was the Helium speech descrambling device for communicating with the divers while they are under pressure. The Nitrogen in their breathing air  is replaced with Helium for some medical reason. Helium is much lighter than Nitrogen, this increases the frequency of the human voice. The divers sound like Donald Duck. The descrambler transforms the voice back to a normal frequency.


This is one of the two diving bell holes. The diving bell is lowered through this hole to the ground of the sea. Fishies swim there and one may not pee or throw a cigarette butt into the hole, even if you are not in Singapore.


This is a view to the outside from the hut over the diving hole.


And this is one of the tough guys who are working on this ship. A little bit overweight but you probably need that for the hard work. I forgot the name of this young man but I remember that he is from Norway. A good one.

Rockwater II at South Island, New Zealand. Mount Taranaki in the background.

John sent me this wonderful picture. Thanks a lot!


We had a wonderful beer & dim sum after the show. We ended up with simple crew people from the Phillippines and not with the higher class people we have been looking for when we went to Changi village. The higher class crew people enjoyed ManU vs. Liverpool on the tv while we wanted to talk with them.

Thank you, John, for the adventure! I would like to come back. I need some photos of the diving bell, of the radio shack, of the beautiful but loud German MAN diesel engines, of the generator switch board, of your cabin, of the helicopter landing plot, talk with Ron LeBo, and and and …

In April 2009, I could meet again with John and with Jogi, his electrician colleague from New Zealand. Jogi told me that the speed control mechanism for the electric synchron motors is outdated so that the generator engines always run on full power, whatever electric power is needed. This is not only a waste of money but also, a lot of noise is produced which disturbs the crew on board. This is surprising, one would like to change that first.

From my rough calculation I found out that fuel costs make about 20% of the overall costs of the vessel. It burns about 300,000 liters diesel per month and the monthly rent is about 1,000,000 US$ per month.

I forgot to make a photo of Jogi and of his wife. They are both Danish and they have told me a lot about New Zealand. Lovely people. His wife came over from New Zealand to meet her husband who is presently on board, while Rockwater II is being refurbished for some million US$.


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