It looks big from across Grand Harbour but the sheer immensity of the shipyard’s Dock Six, below Corradino Hill, only becomes evident when standing at its bottom looking up towards a towering ship.

The ship-repair facility, known as Red China dock because it was built by the Chinese government in 1975, is more than three times the length of a football pitch and is12 metres deep.

With a capacity of 300,000 tonnes it is the largest dry dock in the Mediterranean and, almost four decades since it started being built, it remains an impressive engineering feat. The dock is now part of the Palumbo shipyard.

It takes just over three hours to empty the dock from seawater, leaving the ship to rest on large wooden blocks for repairs to be made.

Docking a ship is a delicate operation that requires the correct positioning of the wooden blocks. Ship drawings are consulted so that the wooden blocks coincide with the metal beams that run across the vessel’s body.

The dock has a floating gate that drops to the bottom of the sea when filled with water to allow a ship to enter. Sometimes, fish are caught at the bottom of the empty dock.

Black dust from sand blasting that collects at the bottom of the dock is removed before seawater is allowed back in to avoid contamination.

However, it is the stillness of a big ship resting on wooden blocks with its propeller hanging in mid-air that provides a breathtaking view as workers are reduced to minuscule proportions.

A full 12 metres above, a harbour cruise boat passes by the dock’s entrance to tell tourists about its history.

Meanwhile, workers in blue boiler suits labour away silently as the occasional welding spark drops to the bottom of the dock. They remove rust, replace iron sheets and paint the ship’s hull.

The silence is sometimes punctuated by the yellow crane driver speaking on a loudspeaker. It takes 20 minutes to descend from the crane’s cabin that towers above the ship.

The sheer immensity of Dock Six is only dwarfed by the shipyards’ land area that sprawls from underneath Corradino Hill all the way round to Senglea where Palumbo operate the super yacht facility.

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