A crane vessel, crane ship or floating crane is a ship with a crane specialized in lifting heavy loads. The largest crane vessels are used for offshore construction. Conventional monohulls are used, but the largest crane vessels are often catamaran or semi-submersible types as they have increased stability. On a sheerleg crane, the crane is fixed and cannot rotate, and the vessel therefore is manoeuvered to place loads.
In medieval Europe, crane vessels which could be flexibly deployed in the whole port basin were introduced as early as the 14th century.
During the age of sail, the sheer hulk was used extensively as a floating crane for tasks that required heavy lift. At the time, the heaviest single components of ships were the main masts, and sheer hulks were essential for removing and replacing them, but they were also used for other purposes.
In 1920, the 1898-built battleship USS Kearsarge was converted to a crane ship when a crane with a capacity of 250 tons was installed. Later it was renamed Crane Ship No. 1. It was used, amongst other things, to place guns and other heavy items on other battleships under construction. Another remarkable feat was the raising of the submarine USS Squalus in 1939.
In 1942, the crane ships a.k.a. "Heavy Lift Ships" SS Empire Elgar (PQ16), SS Empire Bard (PQ15), and SS Empire Purcell (PQ16) were sent to the Russian Arctic ports of Archangel, Murmansk and Molotovsk (since renamed Sererodvinsk). Their role was to enable the unloading of the Arctic convoys where port installations were either destroyed by German bombers or were non existent (as at Bakaritsa quay Archangel).
In 1949, J. Ray McDermott had Derrick Barge Four built, a barge that was outfitted with a revolving crane capable of lifting 150 tons. The arrival of this type of vessel changed the direction of the offshore construction industry. Instead of constructing oil platforms in parts, jackets and decks could be built onshore as modules. For use in the shallow part of the Gulf of Mexico, the cradle of the offshore industry, these barges sufficed.
In 1963, Heerema converted a Norwegian tanker, Sunnaas, into a crane vessel with a capacity of 300 tons, the first one in the offshore industry that was ship-shaped. It was renamed Global Adventurer. This type of crane vessel was better adapted to the harsh environment of the North Sea.
In 1978, Heerema had two semi-submersible crane vessels built, Hermod and Balder, each with one 2,000 ton and one 3,000 ton crane. Later both were upgraded to a higher capacity. This type of crane vessel was much less sensitive to sea swell, so that it was possible to operate on the North Sea during the winter months. The high stability also allowed for heavier lifts than was possible with a monohull. The larger capacity of the cranes reduced the installation time of a platform from a whole season to a few weeks. Inspired by this success similar vessels were built. In 1985 DB-102 was launched for McDermott, with two cranes with a capacity of 6,000 tons each. Micoperi ordered M7000 in 1986, designed with two cranes of 7,000 tons each.
However, due to a oil glut in the mid 1980s, the boom in the offshore industry was over, resulting in collaborations. In 1988, a joint venture between Heerema and McDermott was formed, HeereMac. In 1990 Micoperi had to apply for bankruptcy. Saipem – in the beginning of the 1970s a large heavy lift contractor, but only a small player in this field at the end of the 1980s – acquired M7000 from Micoperi in 1995, later renaming it Saipem 7000. In 1997 Heerema took over DB-102 from McDermott after discontinuation of their joint venture. The ship was renamed Thialf and, after an upgrade in 2000 to twice 7,100 tons, it is now the largest crane vessel in the world.
Thialf can use both cranes to lift 14,200 t (14,000 long tons; 15,700 short tons) at a radius of 31.2 m (102 ft); in comparison, Saipem 7000 can use both cranes to lift a smaller load of 14,000 t (14,000 long tons; 15,000 short tons) at a wider radius of 41 m (135 ft).
A heaviest single lift record was set in 2000 by Thialf for lifting the 11,883 t (11,695-long-ton; 13,099-short-ton) Shearwater topsides for Shell. Saipem 7000 set a new record in October 2004 for the 12,150 t (11,960-long-ton; 13,390-short-ton) lift of Sabratha Deck.
Under dynamic positioning, Saipem 7000 set another record in 2010 by lifting the 11,600 t (11,400-long-ton; 12,800-short-ton) BP Valhall Production topsides. Pioneering Spirit broke the existing records with the 13,500 t (13,300-long-ton; 14,900-short-ton) lift of the Yme platform in 2016. Pioneering Spirit nearly doubled that in 2017 with a new record lift of the Brent Delta platform, weighing 24,200 t (23,800 long tons; 26,700 short tons).
|Vessel name||Company||Built||Flag||Lifting capacity (t)||Type||Identifier||Image|
|Allseas||2016||48,000 at bow
25,000 at stern (tilting lift beams)
5,000 (deck crane)
|Semi-submersible||IMO number: 9593505|
|Thialf||Heerema Marine Contractors||1985||14,200 (7,100 + 7,100 tandem, revolving)||Semi-submersible||IMO number: 8757740|
|Saipem 7000||Saipem||1987||14,000 (7,000 + 7,000 tandem, revolving)||Semi-submersible||IMO number: 8501567|
|Hyundai-10000||Hyundai Heavy Industries||2015||10,000||Sheerleg Monohull||MMSI number: 440680000|
|Svanen||Van Oord||1991||8,700||Sheerleg Catamaran||IMO number: 9007453|
|Hermod||Heerema Marine Contractors||1978||8,100 (4,500 + 3,600 tandem; 4,500 + 2,700 revolving)||Semi-submersible (scrapped)||IMO number: 7710214|
|Lan Jing||CNOOC||1990||7,500 (4,000 revolving)||Monohull||IMO number: 8907527|
|VB-10,000||Versabar Inc.||2010||6,800||Catamaran||MMSI number: 367490050|
|Balder||Heerema Marine Contractors||1978||6,300 (3,600 + 2,700 tandem; 3,000 + 2,000 revolving)||Semi-submersible||IMO number: 7710226|
|Asian Hercules III||Asian Lift (Keppel Fels/Smit International JV)||2015||5,000||Sheerleg Monohull||IMO number: 9660396|
|Seven Borealis||Subsea 7||2012||5,000||Monohull||IMO number: 9452787|
|Oleg Strashnov||Seaway Heavy Lifting||2011||5,000||Monohull||IMO number: 9452701|
|HL 5000||Deep Offshore Technology||?||4,500||Sheerleg Barge|
|Oceanic 5000||Oceanic Marine Contractors||2011||4,400||Monohull||IMO number: 9559145|
|Yorigami Maritime Construction Co., Ltd.||?||4,100||Sheerleg Barge|
|Aegir||Heerema Marine Contractors||2012||4,000||Monohull||IMO number: 9605396|
|Gulliver||Scaldis||2018||4,000 (2,000 + 2,000 tandem)||Sheerleg Barge||IMO number: 9774094|
|Yorigami Maritime Construction Co., Ltd.||?||4,000||Sheerleg Barge|
|DB 50||J. Ray McDermott||1986||3,800 (3,200 revolving)||Monohull||IMO number: 8503539|
|Lan Jiang||CNOOC||2001||3,800 (2,500 revolving)||Monohull||IMO number: 9245641|
|Swiber Kaizen 4000||Swiber Offshore||2012||3,800||Monohull||MMSI number: 357978000|
|Musashi||Fukada Salvage & Marine Works Co., Ltd.||1974||3,700||Sheerleg Barge|
|Yoshida No. 50
|Yoshida Gumi, Ltd.||?||3,700||Sheerleg Barge|
|L 3601||Sembcorp Marine||2012||3,600||Sheerleg Barge|
|OOS Gretha||OOS International||2012||3,600 (1,800 + 1,800 tandem)||Semi-submersible||IMO number: 9650963|
|Samho 4000||Samho Ind. Co. Ltd||2009||3,600||Sheerleg Barge||MMSI number: 440111280|
|Rambiz||Scaldis||1976||3,300 (1,700 + 1,600 tandem)||Sheerleg Barge||IMO number: 9136199|
|Asian Hercules II||Asian Lift (Keppel Fels/Smit International JV)||1985||3,200||Sheerleg Monohull||IMO number: 8639297|
|DB 101 (ex-Narwhal)||J. Ray McDermott||1978||3,200||Semi-submersible (scrapped)||IMO number: 7709069|
|Lewek Constellation||EMAS Chiyoda Subsea||2014||3,000||Monohull||IMO number: 9629756|
|Fuji||Fukada Salvage & Marine Works Co., Ltd.||?||3,000||Sheerleg Barge|
|Yoshida No. 28
|Yoshida Gumi, Ltd.||?||3,000||Sheerleg Barge|
|Swiber PJW3000||Swiber Offshore||2010||3,000||Barge||MMSI number: 370210000|
|Wei Li||Shanghai Salvage||2010||3,000||Monohull||IMO number: 9597628|
|SADAF 3000||Darya Fan Qeshm Industries Company||1985||3,000||Sheerleg Barge||IMO number: 8415512|
|Samho 3000||Samho Ind. Co. Ltd||?||3,000||Sheerleg Barge||MMSI number: 440121590|
|Bokalift 1||Boskalis||2018||3,000||Monohull||IMO number: 9592850|
|DB 30||J. Ray McDermott||1999||2,794 (2,223 revolving)||Monohull||MMSI number: 356011000|
|LTS 3000||L&T-SapuraCrest JV||2010||2,722||Monohull||IMO number: 9446843|
|Sapura 3000||SapuraAcergy||2008||2,722||Monohull||IMO number: 9391270|
|Stanislav Yudin||Seaway Heavy Lifting||1985||2,500||Monohull||IMO number: 8219463|
|Lewek Champion||EMAS Chiyoda Subsea||2007||2,200||Monohull||IMO number: 9377377|
|Suruga||Fukada Salvage & Marine Works Co., Ltd.||?||2,200||Sheerleg Barge|
|Taklift 4||Smit International||1981||2,200||Sheerleg Barge||IMO number: 8010506|
|Saipem 3000||Saipem||1984||2,177 revolving||Monohull||IMO number: 8309165|
|DB 27||J. Ray McDermott||1974||2,177 (1,270 revolving)||Barge||IMO number: 8757685|
|Kongo||Fukada Salvage & Marine Works Co., Ltd.||?||2,050||Sheerleg Barge|
|Quippo Prakash||MDL/Quippo/Sapura JV||2010||?||2,000||Monohull|
|NOR Goliath||Coastline Maritime||2009||2,000||Monohull||IMO number: 9396933|
|Sampson||Coastline Maritime||2010||2,000||Monohull||IMO number: 9429455|
|Kumyong No.2200||Kum Yong Development Co., Ltd||2009||2,000||Sheerleg Barge||MMSI number: 440011970|
|Huasteco||Grupo Protexa||1960||1,800||Monohull||IMO number: 5377953|
|Tolteca||CAMSA||1955||1,800||Monohull||IMO number: 5320522|
|Matador 3||Bonn Mees||2002||1,800||Sheerleg Barge||IMO number: 9272137|
|Samho 2000||Samho Ind. Co. Ltd||?||?||1,800||Sheerleg Barge|
|Left Coast Lifter||Fluor/American Bridge/Granite/Traylor Brothers JV||2009||1,699||Sheerleg Barge|
|Asian Hercules||Asian Lift (Keppel Fels/Smit International JV)||1985||1,600||Sheerleg Barge||MMSI number: 563314000|
|DLB1600||Valentine Maritime Gulf||2013||1,600 (1,200 revolving)||Barge||IMO number: 9681651|
|Yorigami Maritime Construction Co., Ltd.||?||1,600||Monohull|
|Vessel name||Company||Year||Lifting capacity||Type|
|OOS Zeelandia||OOS International||2022||24,000 (12,000 + 12,000 tandem)||Semi-submersible|
|Sleipnir||Heerema Marine Contractors||2019||20,000 (10,000 + 10,000 tandem)||Semi-submersible|
|OOS Serooskerke||OOS International||Q2 2019||4,400 (2,200 + 2,200 tandem)||Semi-submersible|
|OOS Walcheren||OOS International||Q4 2019||4,400 (2,200 + 2,200 tandem)||Semi-submersible|
In the event, the deck sailed out of Ulsan on Sept. 28, 2004, weighing 12,100 tonnes, including rigging, having been skidded onto the Dockwise transportation vessel Transshelf using hydraulic and strand jacks.
On Oct. 30, the Transshelf arrived at the offshore site, following a four-week voyage via the Suez Canal. Two days later, the Saipem 7000 mated the deck to the jacket in a four-hour operation. Certifying authority Lloyd’s Register confirmed the weight as a world record for a single lift offshore. However, Saipem should top its own achievement later this year when the same vessel lifts the Piltun platform topsides into place offshore Sakhalin Island.
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