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Ship Repair, Launching & Marine Salvage using MAX Airbags

The Ultimate Guide to Ship Launching, Ship Repair & Marine Salvage using MAX Airbags

MAX Marine Airbag technology is an extremely flexible technology where it can handle heavy structure launchings (ships, boats, floating jetties, caissons), ship repair haul-ins and marine salvaging cases. While we cannot disclose the details of calculation due to professional competitive advantage, this guide aims to give an overall view of how MAX advises our clients.

Ship launching using such marine rubber inflatables is superior to many other conventional methods.

Airbag ship repair and launching offer shipyards a cheaper, safer and eco-friendlier option than traditional methods. Tweet this!


Jump directly to:-

Ship Launching Section

Ship Repair Section

Marine Salvage Section

Penang shiplaunch max airbags

Ship Launching Section

MAX Rubber Airbags are really cost-effective in launching a vessel, ranging from smaller sized barges to tug boats up to bigger sized chemical tankers etc. But it is very important to understand that rubber airbag launching is not a ‘one-size-fit-all’ method. In fact, MAX team would need to understand all the necessary technical specifications of the vessel (or structure, as this launching method can also be used to launch caissons & floating jetties etc) and many external factors.

The first step is to identify the vessel size & dimensions.

Identify Main Dimensions & Types of Vessel

At MAX, we believe in listening before we jump to conclusions and putting our clients priorities first.

Before proceeding in advising, MAX staff would normally request our prospects to fill in a technical specifications form. Factors like length overall (L.O.A.), beam, draft, launching weight (light weight) of the vessel and working height (distance between ground and the hull of the vessel), just to name a few. This enables our team to understand the weight of the structure during launching and equally as important, the main dimensions so the airbags can be structured efficiently. Different designs of the structure plays a role in choosing the types of airbags.

Selection of MAX Marine Airbag

After understanding the type of vessel and its principal dimensions, MAX staff is then able to recommend the types, sizes and numbers of airbags. A weight contingency of a certain percentage of the vessel weight is taken into consideration. This helps MAX to ensure a safe launching process by not overexerting the rubber airbags and also have a safety margin, should there be any additional weight carried by the vessel during launching.

Based on the dimensions and structural design, the team can recommend the dimensions of the airbag in terms of length, diameter and type. Then, based on calculations and careful projections, MAX staff is able to determine the guaranteed bearing capacity per airbag. At this point, extra airbags for launchway mobilisation will be included in MAX’s recommendations.

The selection process of MAX airbags is also checked by our MAX Smart Ship launching software.

launching calculator

Due to professional competitive advantage, this is a screenshot of just a part of the software.

This software is developed by MAX software engineering team and acs as a double-checking process to enable a safe recommendation of the optimum number and types of airbags for use.

General Ground Structure Preparation

MAX airbag launching process requires a hard ground so that the whole structure will not sink during launching.

If the ground consists of sand or is soft, there are many options that our staff will recommend. Sandbags are a very commonly used option. MAX also helped many of our clients prepare concrete ground as launching slipway for airbag use. This would require a very delicate study of the nature of the ground and in-depth analysis on a case-to-case basis. Thus, it is crucial that this aspect should not be overlooked. Fortunately for MAX, we have helped our clients solve these issues in many years of our experience in ship launching. Contact us if you have such tricky issues with the launching slipway.

Other pre-launch conditions like power generation issues including the design & supply of diesel generator systems will also be discussed with our client.

Selection of Slipway Winch 

The force needed to support the vessel motion into the water will be determined by taking into account the sloping angle. This enables the team to find out the type and strength of slipway winch required to hold the structure in place. The decision of whether to use an electric or hydraulic winch is also very important. A hydraulic winch may be more expensive but might be more durable and more suitable in certain cases. Though it depends on the user and conditions. Pulley blocks, shackles, suitable wire rope types and necessary equipments will also be recommended if needed.

Pulling force plays a huge role especially for certain launching projects that require a slow and steady approach, needing the winch to be able to operate long periods of time.

Placing of Rubber Airbags

MAX team uses 3D projections to determine the placement of rubber airbags at ready-launch position.


This helped give a 3D view on how to evenly distribute the weight of the vessel/structure for maximum safety. MAX takes into careful consideration the distance between components and how to coordinate the metal strut/stand locations.

3D-printing is used for some of MAX’s vessel launch projects, too.

Launching of the Vessel

First time clients usually require MAX consultation crew to be on ground to help them launch their vessel. We are able to facilitate the whole preparation together with supervision of the launching process at a small consultation cost for our clients. Equipped with decades of experience in launching and careful projections, our team ensures the project success and the safety of the crew. With its advantages, launching of structures up to 10,000 Tonnes using this method is pretty common these days. It is widely acknowledged that these launching bags are able to be used up to more than 5 years and is super cost efficient compared to most traditional launching methods.

MAX Airbag launching process

This is a simple illustration of the popular airbag launching process. It started with a winch holding the vessel in place while airbags are installed between the hull of the vessel and the ground and then inflated. Then the pulling force is slowly decreased to enable mobilisation of vessel towards the sea line. At a certain point, the connection between winch and vessel will be released using MAX quick release shackle. The vessel, assisted by gravity and launching bags, will be launched safely into the sea with minimal risk. Please note that however, there are many different scenarios to cater to different situations and different vessels, so this is just an overall idea of it. For your projects, drop us an email so MAX team can assist.


You can visit MAX Marine Airbags page for more info on the product.

View a Youtube video of the launching of Sealink Asia 101 by MAX below:

MAX marine ship launch indonesia

Ship Repair Section

Like the ship launching method, the main concept and preparation process are both very similar, just the other way round. Most calculations are inverted and the core concept of having strong enough pulling force (in this case, hauling winch) is key to maintaining a steady hauling process for ship repair.

Understanding Principal Dimensions & Weight of Vessel

Similarly to the vessel launching process, the hauling in of vessel for repair projects require MAX to analyse its dimensions in detail. Launching weight, overall ship length and width are some of the aspects MAX engineering team would take under consideration. The design of hull and ship has to be considered as well for hauling process as structural differences can affect the types of airbags used.

Choosing Suitable MAX Airbags

Main dimensions and structural design of the vessel helps MAX team to recommend the dimensions, thickness, specs & number of airbags needed. When choosing the most suitable bags for hauling use, safety is our number one priority. Marine bags should not be overexerted. That is why MAX’s experienced technicians will add a percentage of weight contingency in calculations. This will add a ‘safety cushion’ also to accommodate any excess weight that the vessel may have added.

Next, detailed projections and careful calculations enable MAX to identify the bearing capacity per airbag. This figure is subsequently used to deduce the total number of bags needed, including extra bags for launchway mobilisation. MAX team will then use our in-house developed MAX Smart Ship Launching software to double-check the calculations.

Pulling Winch / Hauling Winch with Enough Pulling Force

Depending on the angle of the slope, the dimensions & size of vessel, a winch and the entire pulley system will be recommended to provide sufficient pulling force.

Ship Repair using Launching Airbags

Most of the process is similar to the airbag ship launching process. You can learn more about it here. Instead of launching the vessel into the water, rubber airbags help lift the vessel out of the water, supporting its movement towards the ground together with pulling force from the winch.

This innovative product helps boost a yard’s ship repair capacity without needing to invest in building another dry dock. A hard ground is sufficient to enable vessel hauling using airbags, and repair works can be performed at the same location. The entire hauling process is a delicate case-to-case situation. MAX’s experience and detailed projections will ensure a safe ship repair process.

These launching bags are actually used by MAX to solve launch way limitation problems, maximising the return on investment of our clients.


Marine Salvage Section

Marine Salvage is the process/project of recovering a vessel (ship), its cargo, or items after a ship wreck. This includes towing of a vessel, patching of a ship or re-floating a sunken/grounded ship. MAX Airbags is a popular product for re-floating a sunken/grounded ship. Marine salvage using rubber bags are mainly case-to-case studies where MAX technical team will advise only based on known facts. Here is just an idea of how MAX would assist in vessel salvaging projects.

Buoyancy Needed to Re-float Vessel

The in-depth study & calculations of buoyancy needed will be carried out by MAX. With this, MAX is able to advise on the size and type of MAX salvaging bags (There are custom made and very different when compared to launching bags with more emphasis on floating ability etc).

Depth or Water Pressure

MAX needs to understand the scale of the project and the magnitude of it to determine the strength & type of mobilisation/re-floating airbags.


We have worked closely with marine salvaging teams in many parts of the world since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Our experience in these projects would ensure the success of your marine salvage projects. So if you’re a marine salvaging team, contact us for high quality and reasonably-priced MAX rubber airbags.

View MAX Rubber Airbag page for more info HERE.

View all our other products at our main products page HERE.

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