The operation of taking the ship out of the water, by any of a number of means, for the purpose of performing work on its bottom is called “Dry Docking”. It can be accomplished in several different ways, sometimes depending on the size of the ship or on the available facilities.
At this respect, Floating Dry Dock meant the most radical innovation in the field of dry docking. The versatility and mobility of these units opened the way to entirely new possibilities and expanded ranges of operation of modern fleets, and may indeed be considered the nucleus of the modern mobile base.
A Floating Dry Dock is basically a structure capable of being submerged by the admission of water to its interior compartments, at which stage a ship is floated into position over a properly predisposed area of the submerged dock.
The structure is then raised by the removal or pumping out the water from its interior compartments. In this manner the ship is lifted above the surface of the water so that work may be performed on its bottom.
The first known adaptation of the principle upon which the modern Floating Dry Dock is designed and operated dates back to the year 1700 during the reign of Peter the Great, in the harbor of Kronstadt, Russia. A British Royal Navy Captain, his ship being in need of repairs and no facilities being available, in that harbor, bought an old hull which he gutted completely, and to which he fitted a watertight stern gate.
This type of dock continued in use for more than 100 years and was known as the “CAMEL” Dock, after the name of the Kronstadt hull, having a striking resemblance to the Military ARD’s widely deployed in WW II.
The next step in the evolution of the Floating Dry Dock was to design and build a dock specially for that purpose instead of using a converted hull.
Such a floating basin was built for the very first time by Christopher Watson at Rotherhithe, England, in the year 1785.
Floating Dry Docks at Valparaiso
On 1857 the very first Floating Dry Dock was moored at the bay of Valparaiso. Built locally she had a wooden structure 50 meters long, lately enlarged to 61 meters. On June 7, 1862 meanwhile dry docking the British steamer “CLODA”, she was lost and “CLODA” saved in a major salvage operation.
1864 and 1875 respectively witnessed the mooring of the second and third wooden Floating Dry Docks. The “VALPARAISO” had here hull covered with zinc plates, her boilers were built locally and had a lifting capacity of 2.000 Tons. The “SANTIAGO” was quite similar to her sister with a superior lifting capacity of 4.500 Tons. A storm sunk the “VALPARAISO” on 1915 and on 1921 the “SANTIAGO” never came up again after undocking the Steamer “MAGALLANES”.
On 1924 the first steel Floating Dry Dock arrived at the harbor. The “VALPARAISO II” had been bought by the local Shipyard “Las Habas” in Holland. She was 111 meters long, had a beam of 20 meters and a lifting capacity of 4.500 Tons.
On May 22, 1940 after a storm, she sunk with the steamer “CHILE” dry docked. In a milestone of Chilean Naval Salvage Diving and Marine Engineering, the former naval officer Mr. Federico Corssen leaded the team that after 3 months finally recovered the Floating Dry Dock. She served for other 40 years before being lost on 1980.
Since 1985 the Floating Dry Dock "VALPARAISO III" has been providing ship repairing services at Chile's main port.