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Published on September 5th, 2009 | by Mike


Recovering the Cougar Ace- Cowboys of the Deep (MUST READ!)

The following video is a very very brief overview of the article I’m about to post. It’s more of a segue introducing you to the ridiculous manliness that is Titan Salvage ship recovery.

I will save you the time in reading my article right now, and direct you straight to the article published in Wired Magazine. It’s a long read, but if you truly are a man, you won’t stop until you’ve finished reading it. HERE IT IS. I highly suggest you read it, as mine will be nothing but a brief overview and will certainly not do Titan Salvage justice.

The Cougar Ace is a roll on, roll off, car moving machine. It’s a cargo ship that is capable of holding over 5,000 vehicles, and at one point in time, it frequented Vancouver and the surrounding area. On July 23, 2006, the Cougar Ace began to transfer ballast water in the North Pacific. This transfer of water, combined with a supposed large wave, nearly rolled the Cougar Ace into the sea. What remained was a ship, laying almost completely on it’s side, with 4,700 Mazdas shifted to the point that it was impossible for the ship to right itself.

When the ship tilted, the crew were flung against the wall, and within a short period of time, everyone was evacuated, and the ship was abondened. Left to float at sea with little hope of salvage. Little hope of salvage if it were not for a very unique, and very talented group of men known as Titan Salvage.

Titan Salvage is an elite team of ship “rescuers” who specialize in listing cargo ships that will inevitably sink to the bottom without some form of help. The business of ship salvaging has often been called a form of legal pirating. It’s thought of that way because the team from Titan Salvage essentially takes the ship over, and rakes in an extreme amount of cash in the process.

The ships insurers are willing to pay anywhere from 10-70% of the ships value to Titan Salvage, for saving the ship from the murky depths. On the other hand, if Titan Salvage is unable to save the ship, and they utilize tons of resources in an attempt, they wind up losing ridiculous amounts of money as the ships insurer pays nothing for failed attempts. This is why it is of the utmost importance to create a salvage team filled with individuals who are the best in the world at what they do. The cost-risk ratio is extraordinary. If the team fails, it becomes a complete disaster. But, if the team succeeds, they reap rewards that most people couldn’t even imagine. Over 10 million dollars, for recovering the Cougar Ace alone.

In order to build an elite team of ship recovery specialists, you need individuals who are not only the best in their business, but are also capable of performing a wide array of tasks flawlessly. The Titan Salvage team consists of;


Rich Habib

  • Been at sea since age 18
  • Holds an Unlimited Masters License (Allowed to operate ships of any size, anywhere in the world)
  • The senior salvage master for Titan Salvage


Colin Trepte

  • Deep Sea Diver
  • Hard as shit
  • Likes Led Zeppelin
  • Jack of all trades


Phil Reid

  • Titans Chief Naval Architect
  • Titans 3-D Ship Modeler (creates an exact replica of the ship in 3-d on a computer, on the fly)
  • Single handedly convinced the Indonesian Military to protect the Titan team from bad guys in 2004 while recovering a cement ship


Hank Bergman

  • Titan mechanic
  • Known as the Swedish Cowboy as he grew up in a small Swedish town
  • Able to fix ANYTHING anywhere


Yuri Mayani

  • Titan salvage diver
  • 5’2″ of solid muscle with a foul mouth and awesomely volatile temper
  • Tough as hell, good for tight squeezes


Billy Stender

  • Yuris Counterpart
  • Big, tough and smart
  • Also a Titan diver
  • Gets the dirty jobs with Yuri

All of the above people are the primary backbone of the Titan team, and all of them participate in most salvage operations. However, in recovering the Cougar Ace, Phil Reed was unable to initially take on the job as he was busy with family. Standing in for Phil would be Marty Johnson. Graduating first in his class from New Yorks Webb Institute, Johnson has an undeniably outstanding ability to create 3-D models. Particularily 3-D ship models. So it was no wonder he would be called by Titans Rich Habib to take on the Cougar Ace, when Habib found out Reed would be unable to make the trip.


Marty Johnson

After the team had been dropped off on the Cougar Ace, it was imperative to map the ship completely and accurately if they would have any hope of balancing her. This is where Marty came into play. By scampering around on the ships nearly vertical deck, and sneaking in and out of the inside of the ship, Marty should be able to create a reasonably realistic 3-D diagram of the ship. Unfortunately, on the first day of mapping the ship and assessing the damage, Marty slid down the deck nearly 80 feet. Striking a bollard 20 feet down, and eventually falling to his death 60 feet below that.

Even though the crew was devastated at the loss of Marty, it was crucial that they move on, and recover the ship as soon as possible.  The Coast Guard picks up Marty’s body, and Reed is pulled from his family event to continue the operation.

Just to give you an idea of how badly the ship was tilted, and the extreme environment that Titan was forced to work in, and that claimed Marty Johnsons life, the following 2 images are photos of the Cougar Ace and the third is an exact replication of the ship, showing the cargo inside:




Through a devastating amount of survey and analysis work, it was eventually worked out by the Titan Salvage crew that it would be necessary to 160.9 tons of water into the starboard side of the ship, in order to right her. It’s not that simple however, it will take insanely precise mathematical equations to calculate the pace in which they should pump the water, how they should pump the water, and where they should pump the water to. All while factoring in the weight and quantity of payload they have on board.

With the careful placement of pumps throughout the inside of the ship, and countless simulation renderings of what they’re about to do, the team eventually comes up with a solution that is going to work. From there it is only a matter of time and assessment before the ship is righted. It’s a slow and dangerous process. In fact, the ship salvaging business is so risky that Titans team alone had 3 deaths in 3 years on salvage operations. For some of the guys, it’s almost gotten to the point of not affecting them at all.


The recovered Cougar Ace

Even though the ship has been salvaged, and the 10+ million dollars has been wired into Titans account, all of the Mazdas on board must be destroyed. Manufacturers are unable to determine the type of impact floating at such a strange angle for so long has had on the vehicles, and is left with no choice but to crush the entire shipment.

Since the recovery of the Cougar Ace, the employees of Titan Salvage have been all over the world, recovering ships from the most treacherous reaches of the planet. When they eventually have some down time, they return to their home towns to relax and spend the insane amounts of money they make doing an insane job.


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So much man, it hurts.

2 Responses to Recovering the Cougar Ace- Cowboys of the Deep (MUST READ!)

  1. 5,000 cars in the ship…. was stunned by watching the video. it was a great recovery by the teams that involved in the process with great efforts. I went through previous posts also i loved on it going with them and Wish to see more interesting posts.

  2. Pingback: Cruise Ships click here

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