Access North Structures braves 2.5 million litre shark tank

Huddersfield-based rope access specialist Access North Structures has completed a comprehensive 12-week maintenance assignment at The Deep in Hull – entailing a daring structural repaint above a 2.5 million litre open shark tank.

Opened in 2001, the complex, geological rock formation-inspired structure is built around a steel framework and externally clad in five different materials – including laminated glass and aluminium panels.

With summer being The Deep’s busiest period and the essential works requiring good weather conditions, Access North Structures was contracted to deliver an extensive scope of maintenance works during opening hours. Discreet and safe rope access techniques were employed to reduce disruption and risk to visitors, staff members and the aquatic animals alike.

Commencing a two-pronged upkeep programme on the structure, the three-strong team of rope access technicians was responsible for renewing the upper glazed façade, rendered surfaces and claddings, along with the supporting framework, exterior nose cone of the building and a beam over the holding tank area.

Stage one involved a detailed inspection of the external structure and full rendering repaint, whilst the second phase entailed cleaning all glazing and painting both external and internal steelwork.

Home to 3,500 marine creatures, the 113 animals living in the affected tank remained in situ throughout the 12-week assignment, requiring inventive problem-solving in order to overcome occupational challenges. For instance, a floating pontoon was used over the open tank – containing sharks and stingrays – to aid safe access to repaint the steel beam overhead and reduce the risk of water contamination. Working hours were also limited to minimise disturbance to the creatures.

Commenting on the unique maintenance assignment, technical project manager Richard Knight said: “No two structures are the same, meaning every single project is different for our technicians. So, we’re no strangers to working on unusual sites and complex buildings – but abseiling over a shark tank to complete the required repainting was a definite first for the team!

“The Deep has been one of Yorkshire’s most iconic landmarks for almost 20 years, so it’s brilliant for us to have played a key part in its upkeep.”

Based in Armitage Bridge, Huddersfield, Access North Structures specialises in the installation, inspection and maintenance of complex buildings, fall protection systems, ETFE structures and tensile fabric canopies, using rope access techniques.


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