Salvage of the Al-Kuwait - This century invention.



DR2-TV broadcast 25. February 2011 - 10 min. flash extract (75 MB).

Ship raising with expanded polystyrene (EPS) made Karl Kroyer known to the public. A gifted journalist reported to the world that a patent application was rejected due to "prior art" - a 1949 Donald Duck story using the same technique. Copying Donald Duck, however, was a journalistic artefact, but made it a "good" story.

The Al-Kuwait Story. The fact is that no patent application was rejected on grounds of prior art. Karl Kroyer did not know about Uncle Scrooge's yacht and did not copy Donald Duck. True is, that in 1964 the freighter "Al Kuwait" capsized in the fresh-water harbor of Kuwait with a cargo of six thousand sheep. It could not be raised by pontoons and a floating crane able to do the job was no closer than Sidney. The ship was insured by a Danish company, who asked Kroyer for assistance. Kroyer presented the problem to his staff. As a young employee, I got the idea to use entrapped air and demonstrated the invention in bench scale the very same day. I used expanded polystyrene (the type used for heat insulation). Few weeks later an airlift from Berlin to Kuwait with solid non-expanded polystyrene was in full swing. On the quay the polystyrene pellets were expanded with hot steam, hardened and pumped down into the hull of the ship. It is no simple task, to mix polystyrene balls into water and make them pumpable. We succeeded and the invention was patented (GB 100600 and DE 1247893). There was never filed any application on the use of expanded polystyrene. The use of cork was found to be known at the time, but polystyrene was the only realistic product for the purpose. The invention was later sold to a Dutch salvage company and has been used in salvage operations in awkward places of the world.