Title:
APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR SEALING A VESSEL OPENING
United States Patent 3669055


Abstract:
A sealing element having a plurality of concentrically positioned inflatable conduits spaced from one another by intervening passageways formed by an outer cover has means for passing fluids into the conduits and passageways and for positioning and maintaining the element in sealing engagement over an opening in a vessel.



Inventors:
BUCE WALTER F
Application Number:
05/198703
Publication Date:
06/13/1972
Filing Date:
11/15/1971
Assignee:
WALTER F. BUCE
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B63B43/16; (IPC1-7): B63B43/16
Field of Search:
114/222,227,229
View Patent Images:
US Patent References:
1573909Emergency apparatus for damaged shipsFebruary 1926Blumberg
1306938N/AJune 1919Achiha
1226881N/AMay 1917Hayton



Primary Examiner:
Buchler, Milton
Assistant Examiner:
O'connor, Gregory W.
Claims:
What is claimed is

1. An apparatus for preventing the flow of fluid through an opening of a vessel, comprising:

2. An apparatus, as set forth in claim 1, including a plurality of openings through the outer cover into at least a portion of the passageways and means for controllably discharging fluid from said portion of passageways having said plurality of openings.

3. An apparatus, as set forth in claim 2, wherein the plurality of openings into a passageway are spaced at locations relative one to the other and adapted for circulation of fluid through the passageway.

4. An apparatus, as set forth in claim 1, wherein the outer cover portion of the passageway defined by the innermost conduit of the sealing element has an armored covering on the passageway side thereof.

5. An apparatus, as set forth in claim 1, wherein the first means comprises at least first and second securing lines attached to opposed sides of the sealing element and fixed relative to the vessel and

6. An apparatus, as set forth in claim 5, including

7. An apparatus, as set forth in claim 5, wherein the sealing element has means slidably moving said sealing element relative to and along the first and second securing lines and

8. An apparatus, as set forth in claim 1, wherein at least a portion of the conduits have deformable first and second flanges extending a distance from the second surface of the conduit in opposed directions outwardly from said conduit in a direction generally parallel to the outer cover.

9. A method for preventing the passage of fluid through an opening of a vessel, comprising:

10. A method, as set forth in claim 9, including passing fluid loss material into at least one of the passageways with the second fluid.

11. A method, as set forth in claim 9, including circulating the second fluid through at least one of the passageways and recovering the second fluid therefrom.

12. A method, as set forth in claim 9, wherein positioning of the sealing element includes moving at least one electromagnet associated with the sealing element along the vessel surface to a preselected position relative to the vessel opening and thereafter passing sufficient power to the magnets for magnetically anchoring said magnet to the vessel.

Description:
In order to decrease pollution of the waters and land of the world, save valuable products, and marine, water fowl, and animal life, it is desirable to provide apparatus and method which can be easily installed over an opening in a vessel and seal the opening against the passage of fluid or material therethrough. More particularly, it is desirable to provide a sealing element for attachment over an opening in a ship, such as an oil tanker for example, at locations either above or below the surface of the water in which said ship is located.

The opening in the ship can be caused by any means whatsoever, such as for example, collision, metal fatigue, corrosion, rust, acts of war, etc. Further, the seal is constructed for preventing the flow of fluid into the opening whereby the ship may be caused to sink with sometimes accompanying loss of life, or flow outwardly from the opening from fuel storage tanks of the vessel or bulk product transport compartments of the vessel. The apparatus of this invention can also be utilized for securing an opening in an underwater or land positioned material storage tank, such as the oil and storage tanks utilized in off-shore drilling and production operations.

In summary, this invention therefore resides in a sealing element having a plurality of concentrically positioned, inflatable conduits spaced from one another by intervening passageways formed by an outer cover. Said sealing element has means associated therewith for passing fluids into the conduits and passageways and for positioning and maintaining the element in sealing engagement over an opening in a vessel.

Other aspects, objects and advantages of this invention will become apparent from a study of the specification, drawings, and appended claims.

The drawings are diagrammatic views of the apparatus of this invention.

FIG. 1 shows two different embodiments of the apparatus in the installed position on a ship,

FIG. 2 shows an enlarged view of one of the embodiments,

FIG. 3 shows a cross-sectional view of a portion of the sealing element,

FIG. 4 shows another embodiment of a conduit of the sealing element,

FIG. 5 shows another embodiment of the sealing element and associated elements, and

FIG. 6 shows an enlarged view of the sealing element positioning apparatus of this invention.

Referring to FIG. 1, a vessel 2 has a sealing element 4 positioned over an opening 6 of the vessel 2. The sealing element 4 has first and second securing lines 8, 10 connected at opposed sides of the sealing element 4 for positioning the element 4 and maintaining said sealing element 4 over the vessel opening 6 below the surface 12 of the water, for example.

Referring to FIGS. 2 and 3, the sealing element 4 has a plurality of spaced-apart, inflatable conduits 14. Each conduit 14 has a chamber 16, first and second surfaces 18, 20 and at least one opening 22 for passing fluid into the chamber 16.

An outer cover 24 is sealably attached to the first surface 18 of each of the conduits 14 for maintaining said conduits 14 at spaced-apart positions and forming a sealing element 4 having a plurality of concentric passageways 26 between adjacently positioned conduits 14 in the installed position of the sealing element 4 with the second surface 20 of the conduits 14 in contact with the vessel 2. The outer cover 24 has at least one opening 28 into each passageway 26 for passing fluid thereinto.

The outer cover 24 and the conduits 14 are formed of material that is deformable and substantially impervious to the passage of fluid therethrough. Examples of the types of materials that can be used are natural rubber, synthetic rubber, material formed by polymerization, and others as known in the art. It is also preferred that said material be adapted to be resistant to attack and decomposition from contact with hydrocarbon material or other materials with which it is expected that said sealing element 4 will come in contact.

The openings 22, 28 are connected to means for passing fluid into the conduits 14 and passageways 16 through their respective separate openings 22, 28 for inflating the conduits 14, filling the conduits 14 and passageways 26 with fluid and effecting the sealing of the element, as is hereafter more fully described.

Said means can be of various construction, as known in the art, such as for example a header arrangement having valves and pressure gages positioned in separate lines which are connected to their respective openings and header. The headers are connected to pumping means (not shown) and a fluid supply, such as sea water. By providing such an arrangement, and others, fluid can be selectively, controllably passed to each conduit and passageway for inflating and filling each to preselected pressures.

More preferably, at least a portion of the passageways 26, better all of the passageways, are each associated with a plurality of respective openings 28 and are associated with respective means such as lines and valve arrangements for controllably circulating fluid therethrough.

Adaptation of the conduits 14 and passageways 26 for fluid circulation therethrough can be by many means as known in the art. FIG. 2 shows one example where the conduits 14 and passageways 26 are compartmented by separating elements 30 extending across the chambers 16 and passageways 26 with the inlet line 32 being positioned on an opposed side of the separating element 30 from the outlet or discharge line 34.

It should be understood that the conduits 14 and passageways 26 can each be separated into a plurality of multiplicity of compartmented sections by forming the sealing element in several sections and attaching them together in concentric form or by sealably attaching elements 30. The number of compartments are dependent upon the size of the sealing element 4 and the expected use thereof. Where the sealing element 4 is of extreme size, it is preferred that there by a fairly large number of compartments. Multiple compartmentation permits more effective sealing where it is expected that the sealing element 4 may be damaged during the use thereof.

Means are also provided for maintaining the outer cover 24 against movement to locations greater than a preselected distance from said vessel 2. These means are reenforcing elements 36 such as webbing, netting or individual stringers, for example, which are fixed to the securing lines 8, 10 and extend across the sealing element 4. The reenforcing elements 36 can be a unitary part of the outer cover 24 or be in contact with the outer surface 38 of said cover 24. The reenforcing elements 36 are for supporting the sealing element 4 in the installed position and preventing said element, upon inflation, from moving to locations from the vessel greater than a preselected distance in the inflated condition thereby urging the sealing element 4 against the vessel in sealing engagement in response to filling of the conduits 14 and passageways 26. The preselected distance is dependent upon the size of the conduits and can easily be determined by one skilled in the art.

Referring to FIG. 4, deformable first and second flanges 46, 48 can be sealably connected to the second surface 20 of the conduits 14 for providing an improved seal between said conduits 14 and the vessel 2. The flanges 46, 48 extend outwardly from their respective conduit 14 in opposed directions generally parallel to the outer cover 24. These flanges 46, 48 are deformable and, upon pressurizing of the respective passageway 26, provide greater surface contact with the vessel 2.

Referring to FIG. 5, it is also preferred that an outer cover portion 40 of the passageway 26 defined by the innermost conduit 42 have an armored covering 44 on the passageway side of said outer cover portion 40. That armored covering 44 can also extend over said innermost conduit 42. This construction is particularly advantageous where the opening 6 may have a sharp jagged edge which might rupture the sealing element 4. It is also preferred that the cover portion 40 be of an area at least 10 percent greater than the area defined by the innermost conduit 42 thereby forming a chamber for receiving sharp opening edges.

The sealing element 4 can be fixedly attached to the securing lines 8, 10 or can be slidably movable relative to and along the lines 8, 10.

In this construction, latching elements 50 are positioned at desired locations on the securing lines 8, 10 and the sealing element 4. The sealing element 4 is attached to conduits 52, for example, through which the securing lines 8, 10 are threaded thereby permitting the sealing element to be moved downwardly along the lines 8, 10 into latching engagement with the latching elements 50 at which location said sealing element 4 is secured. The latching elements 50 can be of various construction as known in the art.

FIG. 6 shows a device 54 for positioning the securing lines 8, 10 and anchoring the line ends at preselected positions on the vessel 2. A separate device 54 is preferably provided and attached to each of the lines 8, 10 and the sealing element in order to permit more exact positioning of the lines and sealing element 4. The device 54 has wheels 56 mounted on a frame 53 in order that the device 54 can be moved downwardly across the surface of the vessel 2 by rolling of the wheels 56 in contact with the vessel surface. An electromagnet 58 is movably mounted on the frame by springs 60, for example, for movement of the magnet 58 is relative to the associated vessel 2 between a first position at which the magnet 58 is spaced from the vessel 2 and a second position at which the magnet 58 is in forcible contact with the vessel 2. The frame 53 can be attached to the securing lines 8, 10 and the sealing element by means known in the art and as suggested above. A variable power source 62 is operably connected to the electromagnet 58 for controlling the magnitude of magnetic attraction.

It should be understood that the wheels 56 can be replaced by tread as on track or half track vehicles and that said tread or wheels can be connected to power means for selectively moving the wheels or tread to assist in positioning the apparatus relative to the opening in the ship. As known in the art, the power means of the wheels or tread can be controlled by lines passing from the power means to the deck of the ship or other remote locations or by remote control apparatus.

Although the apparatus of this invention has been described as having only first and second securing lines 8, 10, it should be understood that there can be a multiplicity of lines and associated elements for more securely attaching the sealing element 4 to the vessel 2. The securing lines 8, 10 can also pass underneath a ship for example and be attached to the opposed sides of the ship for anchoring said lines. As known in the art, various line tightening elements can be provided. The lines 8, 10 and sealing element 4 can also be associated with other retaining elements for adapting the apparatus to effectively seal when associated with a vessel surface having various contours and configurations. These other retaining elements could be effectively utilized for example where the vessel opening 6 is in close proximity with the vessel's keel.

In the method of this invention, the sealing element 4 is positioned over an opening 6 in the vessel 2 that is desired to be sealed. The ends of the first and second securing lines can be positioned on opposed sides of a ship for example and the lines and sealing element lowered into the water with the lines at a lower elevation than the ship keel. The operators can then move along the ship edges until the sealing element is adjacent the opening 6. The ends of the lines can then be secured with the desired tension.

In another method using the anchoring devices 54, said devices can be lowered over the side of the ship with a line secured thereto with a separate device positioned on opposed sides of the opening 6. Power to the electromagnets 58 can be controlled to maintain the magnetic attraction of the magnets at a magnitude sufficient to maintain the wheels 56 in contact with the ship while lowering each anchoring device 54 to a position lower in elevation than the opening 6. At this position, the power to the electromagnets is increased to a magnitude sufficient to maintain the securing element during the use thereof.

If, during the installation of the anchoring device, sufficient power is not utilized, the device will fall away from the ship. In this situation, it is only necessary to pull the anchoring device back aboard ship and start the procedure anew.

With the anchoring devices set, the sealing apparatus is slid down the lines to their latching position, as in FIG. 2, or may be positioned at the location during the installation of the anchoring device where said sealing element is fixedly attached to the securing lines.

The securing lines are thereafter secured with a tension sufficient to maintain the sealing element against movement along the vessel surface and against movement of an outer surface of the sealing element to locations from the vessel surface greater than a preselected distance.

First and second fluids are thereafter passed into their respective inflatable conduits and passageways thereby forcibly urging the conduits into sealing engagement with the surface of the vessel.

During use of the sealing element, material between the vessel surface and the conduits or irregular vessel surfaces could permit some passage of fluid past one of the conduits and into an adjacent passageway. In order to prevent the passage of fluid from one passageway outwardly, for example, to other passageways with accompanying possible escape from the sealing element, fluid loss material can be passed into at least one of the passageways, preferably all the passageways, with the second fluid. This fluid loss material, such as is known in the oil well drilling art, will reduce or stop the passage of fluid between passageways and thereby assure a more efficient seal.

Where the vessel contains oil or other valuable product or product which might cause severe pollution of the water in which the vessel is located, the second fluid can be slowly circulated through at least one, preferably all of the passageways with return fluid being recovered. In the case of oil, for example, returning fluid having leakage oil therein can be stored aboard the ship or oil-water separating equipment can be positioned aboard the ship to separate and recover the oil and return the water to circulation or to disposal, for example.

By providing ships at sea or in the proximity of underwater storage tanks with an apparatus of this invention, said apparatus can be quickly installed over an opening in the vessel and thereby provide means for preventing serious pollution of the waters, loss of aquatic life and vegetation and danger from lifetaking fire. It is contemplated that if all ships and storage facilities had such apparatus continuously available, that the adverse effects of pollution could be drastically reduced. Further, land oriented storage facilities could likewise utilize the apparatus and method of this invention to reduce the pollution of the land.

Other modifications and alterations of this invention will become apparent from a study of the drawings and appended claims, and it should be understood that this invention is not to be unnecessarily limited thereto.