Crane vessel

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Wind Lift I at the harbor in Emden, Germany

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.[1]

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.

USS Kearsarge as Crane Ship No. 1

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.[2] 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).[3][4][5]

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.

SSCV Thialf in a Norwegian fjord

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 had M7000 built in 1986 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. This enabled 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 – to take over M7000 in 1995, later renaming it Saipem 7000. In 1997 Heerema took over DB-102 from McDermott after discontinuation of their joint venture.[6] 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 even if all the world's lifting records belong to Saipem 7000 (12,150t of Sabratha Deck).

Heavy lift vessels[edit]

Heavy Lift Vessels, sorted by capacity[7][8]
Vessel Company Year/Flag Capacity (t) Type Identifier Image
Sleipnir Heerema Marine Contractors 2018  20,000[9] (10,000 + 10,000 tandem, revolving) Semi-submersible
Thialf Heerema Marine Contractors 1985 Flag of Panama.svg 14,200[10] (7,100 + 7,100 tandem, revolving) Semi-submersible IMO number: 8757740 KOGA , THIALF , SMIT SCHELDE & SMIT SEINE (13823134403).jpg
Saipem 7000 Saipem 1987 Flag of the Bahamas.svg 14,000[11] (7,000 + 7,000 tandem, revolving) Semi-submersible IMO number: 8501567 Saipem 7000 - Hundvåg, Norway - 28 May 2010.jpg
Hyundai-10000 Hyundai Heavy Industries 2015 Flag of South Korea.svg 10,000[12] Sheerleg Monohull MMSI number: 440680000
Svanen Van Oord 1991 Flag of the Bahamas.svg 8,700[13] Sheerleg Catamaran IMO number: 9007453 HLV Svanen at Belwind.jpg
Hermod Heerema Marine Contractors 1978 Flag of Panama.svg 8,100[14] (4,500 + 3,600 tandem; 4,500 + 2,700 revolving) Semi-submersible IMO number: 7710214 Hermod leaving Calland canal.jpg
Lan Jing CNOOC 1990 Flag of Hong Kong.svg 7,500 (4,000 revolving)[15] Monohull IMO number: 8907527
VB-10,000 Versabar Inc. 2010 Flag of the United States.svg 6,800[16] Catamaran MMSI number: 367490050 SP-57 A to WD-89 (11442548985).jpg
Balder Heerema Marine Contractors 1978 Flag of Panama.svg 6,300[17] (3,600 + 2,700 tandem; 3,000 + 2,000 revolving) Semi-submersible IMO number: 7710226 Balder off Trinidad.JPG
Asian Hercules III Asian Lift (Keppel Fels/Smit International JV) 2015 Flag of Singapore.svg 5,000[18] Sheerleg Monohull IMO number: 9660396
Seven Borealis Subsea 7 2012 Flag of the Bahamas.svg 5,000[19] Monohull IMO number: 9452787 SEVEN BOREALIS (14384338597).jpg
Oleg Strashnov Seaway Heavy Lifting 2011 Flag of Cyprus.svg 5,000[20] Monohull IMO number: 9452701 Oleg Strashnov (ship, 2011) 003.jpg
HL 5000 Deep Offshore Technology Flag of Iran.svg 4,500[21] Sheerleg Barge
Yorigami Maritime Construction Co., Ltd. Flag of Japan.svg 4,100[22] Sheerleg Barge Floating Crane - Kobe, Japan - March 2003.jpg
Aegir[23][24] Heerema Marine Contractors 2012 Flag of Panama.svg 4,000[25] Monohull IMO number: 9605396 Aegir, IMO 9605396 pic4.JPG
Gulliver Scaldis 2017 Flag of Belgium.svg 4,000[26] (2,000 + 2,000 tandem) Sheerleg Barge
Yorigami Maritime Construction Co., Ltd. Flag of Japan.svg 4,000[27] Sheerleg Barge Crane vessel 洋翔 02 (15803673221).jpg
DB 50 J. Ray McDermott 1986 Flag of Panama.svg 3,800 (3,200 revolving)[28] Monohull IMO number: 8503539
Lan Jiang CNOOC 2001 Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg 3,800 (2,500 revolving)[29] Monohull IMO number: 9245641
Swiber Kaizen 4000 Swiber Offshore 2012 Flag of Panama.svg 3,800[30] Monohull MMSI number: 357978000
Musashi Fukada Salvage & Marine Works Co., Ltd. 1974 Flag of Japan.svg 3,700[31] Sheerleg Barge Tokyo-ko Rinkai Bridge construction 1005162.jpg
Yoshida No. 50
Yoshida Gumi, Ltd. Flag of Japan.svg 3,700[32] Sheerleg Barge Construction of Tokyo Gate Bridge 6.jpg
3601 Sembcorp Marine 2012 Flag of Singapore.svg 3,600[33] Sheerleg Barge
Rambiz Scaldis 1976 Flag of Belgium.svg 3,300[34] (1,700 + 1,600 tandem) Sheerleg Barge IMO number: 9136199 Rambiz-d.jpg
Asian Hercules II Asian Lift (Keppel Fels/Smit International JV) 1985 Flag of Singapore.svg 3,200[35] Sheerleg Monohull IMO number: 8639297
DB 101 (ex-Narwhal) J. Ray McDermott 1978 Flag of Saint Kitts and Nevis.svg 3,200[7] Semi-submersible (scrapped) IMO number: 7709069 McDermott DB 101, IMO 7709069.jpg
Lewek Constellation EMAS Chiyoda Subsea 2014 Flag of Panama.svg 3,000[36] Monohull IMO number: 9629756 Lewek Constellation and Ceona Amazon - Wiltonhaven Schiedam - 9 Jan. 2014.jpg
Fuji Fukada Salvage & Marine Works Co., Ltd. Flag of Japan.svg 3,000[31] Sheerleg Barge
Yoshida No. 28
Yoshida Gumi, Ltd. Flag of Japan.svg 3,000[37] Sheerleg Barge
Swiber PJW3000 Swiber Offshore 2010 Flag of Panama.svg 3,000[30] Barge MMSI number: 370210000
Wei Li Shanghai Salvage 2010 Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg 3,000[38] Monohull IMO number: 9597628 Crane ship - Kraanschip - Wei Li - Nieuwe Waterweg - Hoek van Holland - Port of Rotterdam (21219259898).jpg
SADAF 3000 Darya Fan Qeshm Industries Company 1985 Flag of Iran.svg 3,000[39] Sheerleg Barge IMO number: 8415512
DB 30 J. Ray McDermott Flag of Panama.svg 2,794 (2,223 revolving)[40] Monohull MMSI number: 356011000
LTS 3000 L&T-SapuraCrest JV[41] 2010 Flag of India.svg 2,722[42] Monohull IMO number: 9446843 LTS3000 Forward Portside view.JPG
Sapura 3000 SapuraAcergy 2008 Flag of Malaysia.svg 2,722[43] Monohull IMO number: 9391270 Sapura 3000 BC Module 02 - Rong Doi field.jpg
Stanislav Yudin Seaway Heavy Lifting 1985 Flag of Cyprus.svg 2,500[44] Monohull IMO number: 8219463 Crane ship Stanislav Yudin - IMO 8219463 - Maasmond - Rotterdam - 24 Jan. 2015.jpg
Lewek Champion EMAS Chiyoda Subsea 2007 Flag of Singapore.svg 2,200[45] Monohull IMO number: 9377377
Suruga Fukada Salvage & Marine Works Co., Ltd. Flag of Japan.svg 2,200[31] Sheerleg Barge
Taklift 4 Smit International 1981 Flag of the Netherlands.svg 2,200[8] Sheerleg Barge IMO number: 8010506 TAKLIFT 4 IMO 8010506 Floating Sheerleg, Port of Rotterdam pic3.jpg
Saipem 3000 Saipem 1984 Flag of the Bahamas.svg 2,177[46] revolving Monohull IMO number: 8309165 Saipem 3000 (13692582943).jpg
DB 27 J. Ray McDermott 1974 Flag of Panama.svg 2,177 (1,270 revolving)[47] Barge IMO number: 8757685
Kongo Fukada Salvage & Marine Works Co., Ltd. Flag of Japan.svg 2,050[31] Sheerleg Barge
Quippo Prakash MDL/Quippo/Sapura JV 2010  2,000[48] Monohull
NOR Goliath Coastline Maritime 2009 Flag of the Marshall Islands.svg 2,000[49] Monohull IMO number: 9396933 Hanse Sail 2009 - Rostock-Warnemünde - Osa Goliath bei Liebherr (3799222114).jpg
Sampson Coastline Maritime 2010 Flag of Panama.svg 2,000[49] Monohull IMO number: 9429455 OSA Sampson.JPG
Huasteco Grupo Protexa 1960 Flag of Mexico.svg 1,800[50] Monohull IMO number: 5377953 Huasteco IMO 5377953.jpg
Tolteca CAMSA 1955 Flag of Mexico.svg 1,800[51] Monohull IMO number: 5320522
Matador 3 Bonn Mees 2002 Flag of the Netherlands.svg 1,800[52] Sheerleg Barge IMO number: 9272137 Matador 3 IMO 9272137 Port of Rotterdam.JPG
Left Coast Lifter Fluor/American Bridge/Granite/Traylor Brothers JV 2009 Flag of the United States.svg 1,699[53] Sheerleg Barge Left Coast Lifter - Truss Install (D137).jpg
Asian Hercules Asian Lift (Keppel Fels/Smit International JV) Flag of Singapore.svg 1,600[54] Sheerleg Barge MMSI number: 563314000 Asian hercules on duty MMHE.jpg
DLB1600 Valentine Maritime Gulf 2013 Flag of Panama.svg 1,600 (1,200 revolving)[55] Barge IMO number: 9681651
Yorigami Maritime Construction Co., Ltd. Flag of Japan.svg 1,600[56] Monohull Yorigami Maritime Construction SHINSHO-1600.JPG

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Michael Matheus: "Mittelalterliche Hafenkräne," in: Uta Lindgren (ed.): Europäische Technik im Mittelalter. 800-1400, Berlin 2001 (4th ed.), p. 346 ISBN 3-7861-1748-9
  2. ^ "Popular Science". 
  3. ^ US Navy list of FLOATING CRANE (N-S-P),YD
  4. ^, TD- Cranes
  5. ^, By Jon Hoppe
  6. ^ "J. Ray McDermott ends HeereMac joint venture". 
  7. ^ a b Greenberg, Jerry (November 2010). "2010 Worldwide Survey of Heavy Lift Vessels" (PDF). Offshore Magazine. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2 August 2016. Retrieved 1 August 2016. 
  8. ^ a b Moon, Ted (November 2014). "2014 Worldwide Survey of Heavy Lift Vessels" (PDF). Offshore Magazine. Archived (PDF) from the original on 11 July 2015. Retrieved 1 August 2016. 
  9. ^ "Sleipnir". Heerema Marine Contractors. Retrieved 4 August 2016. 
  10. ^ "Thialf Datasheet". Heerema Marine Contractors. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  11. ^ "Saipem 7000 Datasheet". Saipem S.p.A. - A subsidiary of Eni S.p.A. Archived from the original