High stakes salvage - smarts over brawn

High Tech Cowboys of the Deep Seas: The Race to Save the Cougar Ace Cougar Ace

Photo: Courtesy of US Coast Guard

These guys use some smarts instead of heavy machinery to salvage ships in trouble. When you get offered $30M to save one ship and hold out for more, that extra savings makes for a nice profit. No tugs or cranes are used. Instead, all the equipment is can be put on a plane to the closest airport and a speedboat can get them to the ship fast. Their Dutch competitors can take days or weeks to get a salvage ship with cranes, etc. to the site.

Why is this cool to me? The guys at Titan build an on-the-fly digital replica of the ship in trouble. Then, they use the software to figure out an ingenious way to fix it. It's a tricky task. If you get the calculations wrong, you end up sinking the ship. Get them right, and you save the ship without lots of heavy equipment and collect 10-70% of the ship's value. Also, I spent some time after college driving Nissans off these ships in preparation for dealer lots. If you haven't been up close to or inside a car container ship, let me tell you they are huge.

What a use of technology! Phone rings: "Cold weather or warm, mate?" They're off...

The only downer is that one man died saving this ship. Unfortunately, technology can't account for the dangers of moving around on a 60 degree tilt.