It is not a brilliant idea, once you have installed a watertight bulkhead of sufficient strength to withstand the sea, should it be lapping at one side of it, to then drill it full of holes to accommodate pipe and cable runs. And while you obviously have to pierce such bulkheads for very good technical reasons, there are ways of going about it that do not effectively render the barrier about as much use as a colander (possibly a more relevant comparison than a chocolate teapot).

This would appear to be the reason that the gigantic main engine aboard the much celebrated containership Emma Maersk ended up submerged, and the whole huge ship nearly lost, when large volumes of water surged down the shaft tunnel. It answered the many questions which were asked after the casualty, when people who knew something about class rules and ship construction wondered about the watertight doors with which ships have been equipped, and which in terms of classification, certainly predated the Titanic.

But as a sort of dire warning, it would seem to be very effective, and doubtless all around the world and hopefully not just aboard Maersk containerships, people are looking rather more quizzically at the integrity of the bulkheads shown on their general arrangement plans as “watertight”.

Mind you, it is not the first time such an accident has happened. During the Falklands war there were Royal Naval ships which were lost, at least in part, because either fire or water managed to transmit itself through pipe and cable runs which pierced bulkheads and were inadequate barriers. And many years before, there was a particularly horrible accident involving a Greek general cargo ship, which had been “converted” into a ro-ro ferry by the dubious expedient of cutting truck-sized apertures in the WT bulkheads.

It probably seemed a good idea at the time.

Author: Michael Grey                                            Source: