Huge Floating Dry Dock Holding Russia's Only Aircraft Carrier Has Accidentally Sunk (Updated)

The Admiral Kuznetsov was undergoing a long-delayed and much-needed deep overhaul when the accident occurred. 

Christopher Michel/wikicommons

Details remain limited and are likely to change, but what we do know is that one of the world's largest floating dry docks, known as PD-50, has sunk while Russia's aircraft carrier Amiral Kuznetsov was aboard. According to reports, the dry dock began to sink suddenly, collapsing cranes onto the carrier's deck and sending shipyard workers scrambling for their lives. 

The dry dock is located at 82nd Repair Shipyard in the village of Roslyakovo. The shipyard there primarily supports Russia's Northern Fleet based out of nearby Severomorsk. We don't know exactly how many people were hurt or killed in the incident, but apparently, there were casualties. 

Google Maps

PD-50 seen in its usual position.

Conflicting reports as to how this happened are circulating, but there still isn't a detailed official statement from of the Russian Ministry of Defense. The one we do have via Russian media outlets simply says "the vessel suffered no damage after the incident at the 82nd shipbuilding plant." It's worth noting that Russia has a track record of not admitting the scope of shipyard accidents.

Admiral Kuznetsov is currently undergoing a much-needed complex overhaul after years of deferring the project. Although the scope of the work has been narrowed, it is still a highly invasive operation. Even the ship's notorious boilers have been pulled and new ones are being installed (see below). The aircraft carrier is tentatively scheduled to return to the fleet in 2021, but judging by other deep overhauls of large and complex Soviet-era fighting ships, it could end up taking significantly longer. 

If parts of the carrier's hull were open during the sudden flood, repairing the ship could be extremely expensive and time-consuming. These accidents are not unique to Russia. A sudden flooding event occurred last July at the NASSCO shipyards in San Diego. Luckily nobody was injured or killed in that incident.  

We will update this post as more information comes available. 

Update: 4:00am PST—

The official story, at least as it sits now, is that the pump system that controls the dry dock's buoyancy suddenly lost power causing its ballast tanks to flood with water far past the intended point. As the dry dock quickly submerged, cranes came crashing down onto the Kuznetsov's deck (see below). Supposedly all this happened during a refloating operation for the carrier.

The most recent reports state that "two victims remain in hospitals, two received outpatient care, another person went missing." As for the carrier's condition, officials from the shipyard claim the Kuznetsov is undamaged and that her refit schedule will not be affected. At the same time, Russian outlets are now reporting that a five-meter gash was made in the hull of the ship around the waterline and that the deck was supposedly opened up with intricate machinery exposed when the crane fell on it.

So once again, take all this with a tall shot of vodka as it seems very early for anyone to make the claim that everything will proceed as normal. The fate of the dry dock—the only one of Russian origin that can accommodate the aircraft carrier—also remains unknown. If it was badly damaged, that alone could spell major trouble for the Kuznetsov's future. 

Update: 4:00pm PST—

We have posted a new post with new information and analysis on this event. You can go to it by clicking here.

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com