Narco sub: How rescue equipment was deployed

Image copyright REUTERS Image caption Merchant marine officer Jonas Bergström and salvage expert Mark Cubrilovic after the find

A distress call on April 1 in the Stockholm archipelago triggered the most intensive maritime and air search since the start of the year.

A long search in the days that followed was frustrating, when nothing turned up and officials declared the area “highly inaccessible”.

But they turned to a new rescue system after finding a submerged object in the Baltic Sea.

It was what US authorities call a narco sub, an underwater craft developed for the drug trade.

In this case, the ship was a Southern Cross. It is a Spanish-built cargo vessel, owned by a global company, Maritime International, and owned by independent mariners.

The ship was north of Gothenburg, across from the islands of Denmark.

A Norwegian merchant marine officer was staying aboard the ship and his report of the search sparked a hunt that has cost about €2m (£1.7m) to date.

‘The big one’

The incident happened over the last two or three days in an area where the routes diverge.

There are aerodromes and islands and islands with aerodromes, so there’s a lot of wind about.

Basically you see something on the horizon and you think that’s not too bad and then the sun disappears behind the island.

Once you see the horizon disappear, you know it’s more than just your imagination that has been really deadened there for two or three days, and that’s not great.

So you’ve got a lot of data points… giving you ‘an idea’ of where the ship might be.

But the camera doesn’t see through the ship. That is how you end up with a message that says we’re off on the end of a long search.

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After a week of not having anything turn up, Mark Cubrilovic was sent to go and rescue the ship, which had sunk.

How did he reach the ship?

We had to go in a convoy with several high-speed ferries – a high-speed ferry from southern Sweden to northern Finland, another high-speed ferry from southern Sweden to northern Finland, and another high-speed ferry that we share with the Swedish port authority. So we had two ferries with us going towards Gothenburg, which in itself is a very unique thing because that way it’s a result of a mandate.

What did we get out of the joint operation?

Because we came out, we were able to get the southern, high-speed ferry and from there we had (just) one port authority who was most interested in us: Sweden.

We came to a consensus with them and we were able to gather data and information for the joint commission.

The mission, for that area, was found not to be successful. That one thing that it is not.

What can you infer from the work done with the torpedo sonar that was towed along with the ship?

If we didn’t come out we would have had to go back and see who did not come out.

Just yesterday, I went in the area to collect data, and I was able to see exactly what the ship was, and then obviously when we got back on the boat we saw that the ship moved really little bit, only just a little bit and we were still able to find that.

So it’s probably small features like that.

What I also learnt is that the business of narco submarine development is one of the more lucrative parts of the business, so for the purse-holders, you are able to get research money to develop your ship to a level where it can be used by criminal gangs, and then the investment companies will take them and make a ton of money.

So most of the investment company money comes into selling salvage services to the governments in Latin America and the Caribbean.

What the narco submarine has in common with a recovered 747 from Russian submarines is that it is specialised for fighting submarines, especially those made in submarines and especially those that are specially made for fighting submarines in the right operational areas.

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