What is a dry dock and how are ships moved in and out of them?

A dry dock is a specialized structure designed to repair and maintain ships of all sizes. It is a type of boatyard where water is pumped out to enable repairs, maintenance or refitting of vessels, while the ships remain stationary. This unique facility allows ships to be moved in and out of the water safely and easily, providing access to every part of the vessel that needs attention.

To understand how ships are moved in and out of dry docks, it is important to know what they are made of. A typical dry dock consists of a large basin that is enclosed by walls and gates to keep water out. The walls are lined with iron or masonry, and the bottom is often made of cement or asphalt. Some dry docks are permanent structures built into the land, while others can be towed to different locations.

The process of moving a ship into a dry dock begins by opening the gates or flooding the basin with water until the ship is able to sail into the dock. Once the ship is inside the basin, the gates are closed or the water is pumped out. The ship then settles on a support platform known as keel blocks, which hold it in place while repairs are made.

The keel blocks, a hydraulic, electric or manually operated elevator lifting the vessel, a shiplift or syncrolift, allow the dock workers to get access to the underside of the ship, the rudder and the propellers to carry out regular maintenance work which includes painting, welding and cleaning. The dry dock also allows more complicated work such as hull inspections, overhauling the engine and replacing worn out propellers and bearings.

Once the work is complete, the dock is re-flooded, and the ship floats out easily, with the support of the keel blocks, back into the water, ready to navigate again. Dry docks can accommodate all types of vessels, including warships, tankers, cruise ships or any other vessel under repair.

Dry docks are an integral part of boating and ship repair. They offer a safe and efficient environment for ships to be repaired and maintained, ensuring that they remain seaworthy and operational. Ships can be moved in and out of dry docks effortlessly, thanks to the careful planning and the use of specialized equipment. That’s why dry docks are vital to the maintenance of the world’s long-range shipping fleet, which carries the majority of the world’s trade – a vital component of the global economy.

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