Salvage Part 2: Big Salvage Jobs Being Done Around the World

Salvage Part 2: Big Salvage Jobs Being Done Around the World

As kids, we all dreamed of finding an ancient treasure map and following it to lost treasure.

Steven Spielberg’s 1985 movie, The Goonies, a group of kids single handedly find a lost pirate ship.

In the real world, treasure hunting requires large teams of commercial divers and other professionals.

Sadly, not all divers get to uncover buried treasure. But for a few salvage divers, they are making history with the discoveries they are making underseas.

In the second part of our underwater salvage series, we are going to take a look at the different types of salvage jobs that are being done around the world.

Salvage Diving Is A Diver’s Dream

As salvage diver Seb Chander points out, the reason that divers find “salvage very interesting is because no two jobs are the same”.

Most forms of salvage diving fall under the following types:

  • Offshore Salvage – salvaging ships and equipment in the open ocean.
  • Harbour Salvage – takes place in bays or harbors where environmental conditions are easier.
  • Cargo Salvage – the dangerous task of retrieving sometimes hazardous ship cargo
  • Equipment Salvage – reclaiming heavy equipment such as engines.
  • Shipwreck Salvage – bringing entire ships or airplanes back to the surface.
  • Afloat Salvage – saving floating ships that have been damaged from sinking or repairing them on the water.
  • Clearance salvage – cleanup after natural disasters or other catastrophe.

Salvage divers can literally find themselves working on completely different sets of jobs from week to week.

The industry desperately needs former divers to move up in the ranks to pass on their knowledge and experience onto less experienced newcomers.

Depending on the company or companies that they work for, a salvage diver might find themselves recovering a harbor crane that has fallen into the water.

Then, only a week later, they might be flying to another part of the world to set up a heavy lift to salvage a sunken ship.

To give you a better idea what these underwater heroes do every day of the week, let’s take a look at a few high profile recent salvage operations that involved salvage divers.

Recent Salvage Jobs From Around the World:

Revisiting A WWII Vessel

U.S. Navy divers recently recovered oil from a World War Two wreck called Prinz Eugen. The vessel sank after it inflicted damage from an atomic bomb test. It was known to have some 250,000 gallons of fuel oil onboard that posed a serious environmental hazard.

Uncovering A Mysterious Fallen Aircraft

In the fall of 2018, a plane mysteriously plunged into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast off Hamptons, USA. Salvage divers were immediately dispatched to help recover the missing plane so that the authorities could recover the bodies and gather evidence to ascertain the cause of the accident.

A $17 Billion Dollar Treasure On The Ocean Floor

Earlier this year, a story broke that a salvage company had finally begun unearthing what is estimated to be treasure worth $17 Billion. The sunken Spanish ship, the San Jose, was discovered back in 2015.

Pictures of the artifacts have shown a massive cargo of emeralds, silver, and gems went down with the ship.

Ceramics and other artifacts found from the shipwreck. (Credit: REMUS image, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

However, the valuable discovery is under a hot dispute by different countries who are vying for rights to the sight.

So excavation of the site has yet to begin.

But when it does, you can bet this will be one of the most sought after salvage jobs of the century.


One of the most exciting, and most common forms of salvage diving, involves recovering ships. It might come as a surprise to some of you, but every single month, around 2 to 3 ships on average sink around the globe.

Late last year, a Norwegian navy frigate, the HNoMS Helge Ingstad, collided with an oil tanker and sank.

A number of factors determine whether a ship will ever see the surface again:

  • Depth at which it lays
  • Whether the ship poses a problem such as blocking a shipping lane
  • The sensitivity of the equipment lost
  • Cargo onboard
  • How much damage a ship received when it sunk

Amazingly, most ships are never recovered. A heavy lift operation for most ships would be too expensive.

Photo: Royal Norwegian Navy

However, salvage divers will be dispatched to recover any valuable metals which include things such as the engine etc, which are worth the cost of recovery. If you have ever dived a wreck, you will have noticed that very little remains in terms of removable objects.

The most amazing kind of ship salvage involves recovering a whole ship. Divers get a real thrill from seeing an entire ship emerge from the ocean and float again. This kind of operation is tough and requires lots of patience.

Typically, a ship salvage operation will require divers to undertake survey work, to search for mission objects and bodies (recovery), identify any hazards, to support ROVs and other equipment, and finally to prep the ship for lifting. All this means that ship salvage divers are required to have a range of skill sets at their disposal.


A commercial diver who finds themselves working in the U.S Navy is guaranteed to get to try out the latest equipment and most challenging operations.

According to the Navy’s own website, Navy Divers could be expected to undertake the following roles:

  • Undertake a variety of diving salvage operations and special diving duties worldwide.
  • Take part in construction and demolition projects.
  • Execute search and rescue missions.
  • Support military and civilian law enforcement agencies.
  • Serve as the technical experts for diving evolutions for numerous military Special

Operations units.

  • Provide security, communications and other logistics during Expeditionary Warfare missions.
  • Carry out routine ship maintenance, including restoration and repair.

All this means that there is unlikely to be a time when a Navy diver ever gets bored.

Other Jobs

Some salvage divers reach a point when they decide to hang up their dive helmets and watch others take all the glory.

The industry desperately needs former divers to move up in the ranks to pass on their knowledge and experience onto less experienced newcomers.

Fortunately, divers get a welcome pay rise when they opt for management jobs. Roles range from directing salvage dive teams from the surface. Individuals are required to plan out dives and to ensure that they are done safely.

Alternatively, divers can choose to become training coordinators in organizations such as The Divers Institute of Technology in Seattle.

Director of Training at DIT, Mike “Doc” Redeen, a former U.S Navy diver is one such example of an individual who is enriching student divers with the experience he has gained throughout his career.


Aran Davis, Writer for Water Welders

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