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Rescue ship "Neptuno"
Rescue ship "Neptuno"
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Rescue ship "Neptuno"

The Commanding Officer of the rescue ship ‘Neptuno’ welcomes you ‘onboard’ and appreciates your interest. Here, you will learn about the characteristics and important tasks of this SAR ship. She is the only Spanish Navy ship in charge of submarine rescue missions and deep-sea diving operations.

The ship is under command of the Commander of the Navy’s Diving Center.

Displacement: 1860 T.

Length: 56,85 m.

Beam: 11,6 m.


  • 2 BURMEISTER & WAIN diesel engines
  • 2 propellers
  • 1 ALCONZA electric engine and 1 fore transversal propeller


  • SECOMSAT satellite communication equipment
  • ECDIS navigation console table
  • 2 Navigation radars
  • KLEIN side-scan sonar
  • Protons magnetometer
  • HPR underwater positioning system
  • Submarine telephone
  • 2 Sounders
  • Current meter
  • A deployable hyperbaric chamber with immersion control gas containers fox mixtures used at great depths
  • ‘Saab Seaeye Leopard’ remotely operated vehicle (ROV) for up to 1,000-meter operations
  • ‘Navajo’ ROV for up to 300-meter operations

Crew: 53.

The ship carries out missions with deep-sea divers and different operations with remote-controlled submarine vehicles. The main operations include: support submarine rescue operations, pinpoint underwater objects with her side-scan sonar, underwater search, and mine hunting support in mine sweeping and laying operations.

In addition, the ship has a protagonist role in the protection of the underwater Heritage and cooperates with the State’s Maritime Security and Rescue Society (SASEMAR).

The ship’s home port is the Algameca Naval Station (Cartagena).

For any underwater mission, the ship conducts the complete process of search, detection, pinpointing, reconnaissance and intervention with the most modern equipment as explained below:

  • For the search and detection stage, the ship has a high resolution side-scan sonar and a protons magnetometer.
  • For the reconnaissance phase, the ‘Neptuno’ employs two unmanned ROVs with sonars and video cameras in addition to articulated arms and other accessories. The largest one is a ‘Saab Seaeye Leopard’ ROV for deep water interventions with S-70 and S-80 submarines. The other ROV is a ‘Navajo’ system, smaller and portable.

Finally, other interventions can be carried out with divers up to 90 m depth or with ROVs. In particular, for divers at great depths, a modern portable diving complex is available with surface supply of breathable gases, including a hyperbaric chamber for decompression and treatment in case of diving accidents. Divers dive by means of a submersible boatswain's chair up to 90 meters.

Self-contained air diving equipment is also available. In addition, the vessel can support deep scuba diving using open and closed equipment breathing gas mixtures.

In order to guarantee the precision in the positioning of the vessel (by anchoring to four buoys or with up to four anchors) during any intervention, there is an advanced navigation system, sounders and a hydro-acoustic submarine positioning system.

Finally, apart from the aforementioned systems, the ship has specific material for submarine rescue, which is the ship's main mission:

  • Ventilation hoses to be connected by divers to the wrecked submarine, in order to provide fresh air and extract stale air, thus keeping the submarine's crew alive until the arrival of the final rescue means.
  • Refloat hoses, capable of injecting high-pressure air to provide positive buoyancy to the wrecked submarine.
  • Watertight cylindrical containers, commonly called PODS, which are used to provide material that may be required by the wrecked submarine, such as CO2 absorbers, escape suits, O2 generators, or simply of medicines.

The ship was built in Gijón (Asturias) in 1975 as an offshore tug for oil rigs. When the vessel was selected for upgrading, she was offered to the Spanish Navy. As the old ‘Poseidón’ was about to be decommissioned, the Navy procured the tug and converted her into a divers’ support ship. The ship was delivered in 1988 and named ‘Mar Rojo’.

In 1999, after further upgrading, the ship was turned into a Rescue Ship and re-named ‘Neptuno’ (A-20).

At the end of 2010, the old diving equipment (hyperbaric chambers, tower, and gas containers) was replaced by a new and more modern diving-support system.

The name ‘Neptuno’ has been used on six previous occasions by the Spanish Navy. The other ships were:

  • A frigate captured to the Dutch in 1724 and decommissioned in Cartegena de Indias in 1726.
  • A 66-gun line ship procured in 1740 and subsequently sold in 1748.
  • A 68-gun line ship built in 1754 and sunk in Havana in 1762.
  • An 80-gun ship built in 1795 and sunk in 1805.
  • An 80-gun French ship captured in 1808 and broken up in 1820.
  • A minelayer gun ship built in 1939 and decommissioned in 1972.

The crew of the ‘Neptuno’ consists of 53 highly qualified people who are excellent professionals capable of managing any difficult situation no matter how stressful they may be and with prolonged working hours if necessary.

As any other Spanish Navy vessel, we train and maintain the ship to be in readiness to operate where and whenever necessary.

Likewise, the qualification of personnel in possession of diving skills requires them to be in good psychophysical condition, through the execution of sports activities and passing physical and medical examinations on a regular basis.

Among the ship’s main operations, the following are worth mentioning: Recovery of aircraft crashes of an AV-8B ‘Harrier’ and an Air Force C-101. She also participated in the cleaning endeavors conducted on the occasion of the sinking of the oiler ‘Prestige’ off the coast of Galicia and the subsequent and disastrous oil spill.

Thanks to an agreement between the Ministries of Defense and Culture signed in August 2008, the ship was assigned to detect and protect historical shipwrecks in order to safeguard our national underwater heritage, among them the cruiser ‘España’ in Cantabrian waters and the cruiser ‘Reina Regente’ in the vicinity of the Strait of Gibraltar.

The ship ‘Neptuno’ regularly participates in many national and international exercises (NATO, bilateral of multinational).

The ship also takes part in the international exercises organized every three years like ‘Sorbet Royal’ or ‘Bold Monarch’ designed to improve the training and coordination of all SAR assets for damaged submarines like the Russian ‘Kursk’ in 2001 or the ARA ‘San Juan’ in 2017.

At national level, the ‘Cartago’ SAR of submarines carried out every year where in the 2017 edition, divers were able to fit ventilation hoses at 78 meters of depth.


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