Seabed Solutions AS

When the first excavator was used offshore Trond Erik was behind the levers

Jun 14, 2022

Seabed Solutions AS

Written by andreas svanlund

The Norwegian Oil Adventure had come with a cost. At least 17 divers had paid with their lifes and many of the pioneer divers struggeled with negativ after effects.

Measures to increase the safety of the divers had to be taken. New methods of working had be put to use.

In 2001 the first excavator was used in an offshore operation and behind the levers was Trond Erik Bakken.

The first hydraulic excavator was built in 1897, by the Kilgore Machine Company. Like most modern excavators, it could be operated by one worker, whose movement of the controls was instantly replicated by the machine it self.

But dispite its innovative design it would struggle to gain the recognition it deserved. 

It would take a world war, and the vast need for rebuilding the society, before the market understood how valuable the tool was. 

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In 2001, the same year as Statoil compensated the pioneer divers for their sufferings, the first subsea excavator was put into use.

The Åsgard oil field was identified in 1981, and the plan for development and operation was approved in 1996.

The waterdepth was between 240-300 meters and such depths would put the divers at significant risk.

With a certain degree of sceptisism and a large degree of need, the first subsea excavator was launched over the shipside.


Behind the levers was 21 year old Trond Erik Bakken.

A car accident at young age had injured his right leg and limited his ability to move , but behind the controls  of an excavator he could do magic.

When Trond Erik was put behind the controls of the worlds first subsea excavator, he had already been operating onshore excavators for six years.

Despite his you age, his abilities behind the levers made him the preferred choice for the task.

When I see it in the rearview mirror, what we did was special. It was an important contribution to the industry, but at the time, it was nothing that I thought about

Trond Erik Bakken,

Subsea pioneer, Seabed Solutions



Weakness had been identified in the Åsgard pipelines and 7 kilometers of pipe had to be cleared of rock and seabed sediments to enable repair. 

The subsea excavator was launched using one of the shipcranes, but when the machine was firmly placed on the ocean floor, Trond Erik received a pat on the back. 

– Show us what you can!

It did not take long before Trond Erik was alone in the control container. The operation went smoothly and the machine proved its worth. 

For Trond Erik the entire operation was undramatic. He did what he enjoyed most and did best. 

The fact that the excavator was more than 200 meters below him was not something he thought too much about. 

 – When I see it in the rearview mirror, what we did was special. It was an important contribution to the industry, but at the time, it was nothing that I thought about, says Trond Erik. 


20 years later Trond Erik is still operating subsea excavators, and predicts an increased demand for subsea excavators in the future.

– Excavators has proved themself to be the most effective machines for construction work. With the development of offshore windfarms, decommissioning of oudated oil and gas fields, and marine mineral mining going on at the same time – we will need tools that have proved their worth, says Trond Erik.

The main advantages of the subsea excavators, in addition to being able to operate at great depths, are their ability to relocate large amount of sediments, and since they are unaffected by current, they can do so with much greater precision than a ROV. This is especially important when working around live pipelines.

Subsea excavators can also be equipped with tools that are far heavier than what a ROV would be able to carry. Such as core drilling equipment and powerful cutting tools.


Early in 2023, Trond Erik will once again create history. Together with his team at Seabed Solutions he will go down to 3000 meters and test equipment, that a later stage, potentially can be used to determine the size and composition of massive sulphide deposits. 

– The deep sea has at least 5-10 the mineral concentration of a landbased mine and the massive sulphides has far higher concentration than that, says Trond Erik, before he continues:

– We have planet that provides for us, but also continuously challenges us. But wherever there is a challenge, you can also find the means to solve it.

Trond Erik thinks before he continues;

– Humans don’t create. We make use of things that already exists. We put things together. The things we need already exist, it’s the combination of things must be identified, and my guess is that subsea excavators will become a part of the future solution.




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