A giant drilling rig has been left crippled after an accident at the Kentish Flats wind farm off Herne Bay.
The 850-tonne Deep Diver was test drilling on the seabed when one of its four hydraulic legs broke off.
Marine engineers managed to save the 30-metre long exploration drill, but have had to leave the 17.5 metre steel leg stuck in the seabed.
The Deep Diver, owned by Falmouth firm Fugro Seacore, had to limp to specialist repairers in Lowestoft, Suffolk.
It had been carrying out a survey of the seabed for Swedish firm Vattenfall, which wants to increase the size of its Kentish Flats wind farm.
Insiders told the Times the leg sheared off when the crew tried to move the “jack-up” barge.
It is unknown if the damaged leg will have to stay where it is, as recovery costs are expected to be huge. The Deep Diver costs hundreds of thousands of pounds to hire.
Vattenfall spokesman Jason Ormiston said: “During geo-technical surveys by Fugro on behalf of Vattenfall’s Kentish Flats extension, part of a single leg section sheared and is currently embedded 1.5 metres below the sea bed.”
He confirmed the accident happened while the barge, the second-largest in Fugro’s fleet, was raising its four supporting legs.
He added: “Vattenfall has informed the Marine Management Organisation, the Port of London Authority and the Crown Estate of the incident, and has now engaged experts to advise on how to proceed.”
He said the Deep Diver will return to the area, when repaired, to continue the survey.
The barge, worth many millions of pounds, uses four pneumatic-powered jacking towers to raise it out of the sea to provide a stable deck for drilling.
Fugro Seacore has not responded to calls from the Times at the time of going to press.
Wind farm owner Vattenfall is planning to extend the 30-turbine scheme by up to 17 turbines, which could generate energy for up to 35,000 more homes.
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