U.S. Navy Seabee Divers assigned to Underwater Construction Team One and divers from the Seychelles Coast Guard completed a preliminary salvage mission to expand the berthing capacity of the Port of Victoria, Seychelles, on Dec. 22, 2022.
The UCT1 divers worked in tandem with SCG divers to start salvaging a wreck that posed a hazard to navigation at the site of a future pier expansion project. This mission will be used as a cornerstone for potential future diving engagements between SCG and U.S. forces, further strengthening the bond between the two nations.
“Working with the Seychelles Coast Guard has been a great experience,” said Chief Builder Estephan Lopez, assistant officer in charge for UCT1’s detachment to CTF 68. “They are an extremely professional group of divers and were more than willing to contribute their diving expertise throughout the job. I look forward to working with them more in the future.”
UCT1 divers utilized exothermic cutting tools to break the wreck into small pieces before removing debris from the water, allowing for mission completion while leaving behind a minimal footprint.
“This mission was a perfect way for us to practice what we train on,” said Steelworker 2nd Class Nicholas Ramirez, a diver who participated in the mission. “Underwater cutting is a really specialized part of our job as Seabee Divers and it’s awesome to be able to employ that capability in a way that actually helps the people in Seychelles.”
Seychellois Divers echoed Ramirez’s comments on the importance of events like this to the overall interoperability between the two nations. They also highlighted the opportunity these dives provide to enhance diving skill and expertise.
"It was a great experience for the Seychelles coast guard dive team,” said Capt Luigi Loizeau, diving officer with the Seychelles Coast Guard. “The CTF 68 divers are a dedicated professional and coordinated team. I wish that these partnerships continue in the future as the collaboration is a great learning opportunity and as the naval military branch of Seychelles Defence Forces we are aspiring to move into the direction of technical and salvage diving operations."
In addition to salvage operations, Seabee Divers completed a hydrographic survey of the entire port, identifying ship passageways and underwater topography. In total, UCT1 mapped over 1.7 million square meters, constructing a clear, concise and detailed map of the Port of Victoria's topography while providing 3D imaging of other identified underwater hazards.
Port Victoria, Seychelles, has been a vital international port for decades. With the importance of the port for trade, fishing and tourism, both Seychelles and the U.S. have a strong vested interest in the upkeep of the port. Bilateral dives like this one ensure that this vested interest continues to pay dividends for both partners.
Underwater Construction Team One is a specially trained and equipped unit within the Navy Expeditionary Combat Force which constructs, inspects, repairs, and maintains ports, ocean facilities, underwater systems and general maritime infrastructure. UCT is a key component of port damage repair operations during a disaster or contingency.
CTF 68, headquartered at Naval Station Rota, Spain, commands all Navy Expeditionary Forces in U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command areas of responsibility and is responsible for providing EOD operations, naval construction, expeditionary security, and theater security efforts in direct support of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and U.S. Sixth Fleet.