Heavy Lift Ships

When you need to transport large cargo, goods, and materials from one place to another, ship is the ideal choice even though they are extremely slow. Thousands of cargo carriers ply the world's seas and oceans each year, and they handle the bulk of international trade. Then there are heavy lift ships that are designed to carry excessively large loads that even cargo ships cannot bear, such as other ships, drilling rigs or anything else too large or heavy to be easily transported on a conventional ship.

Heavy lift ships are of two types: semi-submerging capable of lifting another ship out of the water and transporting it; and vessels that augment unloading facilities at inadequately equipped ports. Semi-submerging are more commonly known as a "flo/flo" for float-on/float-off. These vessels have a long and low well deck that can go down under water allowing oil platforms, other vessels, or other floating cargo to be moved into position for loading. The tanks are then pumped out, and the well deck rises higher in the water, lifting its cargo, and is ready to sail wherever in the world the cargo needs to be transported.

The world's first heavy lift vessel was MV Lichtenfels (118 long tons; 132 short tons) constructed in the 1920s by the Bremen based shipping company DDG Hansa. After World War II, DDG Hansa became the world's largest heavy lift shipping company. Today that title is owned by Dockwise which currently operates 19 heavy lift ships – the world’s largest fleet of semi-submersible vessels of various sizes and types.

The flo/flo industry's largest customer base is the oil industry. They have transported many oil drilling rigs from their construction site to the drilling site at roughly three to four times the speed of a self-deploying rig.

In 1988, the heavy lift ship Mighty Servant 2 towed the guided missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts, which was nearly sunk by a naval mine in the central Persian Gulf. Eleven years later, MV Blue Marlin transported the U.S. guided missile destroyer USS Cole from Aden, Yemen to Pascagoula, Mississippi, after the warship was damaged in a bombing attack on 12 October 2000.

In 2004, Blue Marlin carried the world's largest semi-submersible oil platform, 60,000 tonne semi-submersible production rig, Thunder Horse, over 15,000 nautical miles from Okpo, Korea to Corpus Christi, Texas.

Many of the larger ships of this class are owned by the company Dockwise, including Mighty Servant 1, MV Blue Marlin, and MV Black Marlin. The company is currently building another heavy weight named the Vanguard that will have 50% greater lifting capacity and 70% greater deck area than the largest heavy lift ship now in service, the Blue Marlin. At 275 meters (902 feet) long and 70 meters (230 feet) wide, the Vanguard can lift 110,000 tonnes and travel across oceans at 14 knots.

Dockwise Swan loading a smaller ship on the deck

Dockwise Tern in the process of loading an oil platform

Dockwise Black Marlin with an oil plaform

MV Blue Marlin goes underwater to prepare for loading.

MV Blue Marlin carrying USS Cole after the warship was damaged in a bombing attack

MV Blue Marlin with an oil platform on its deck

The coastal mine-hunters USS Cardinal (MHC-60) and USS Raven (MHC-61) sit on the deck of MV Blue Marlin after de-ballasting operations, which lifted the mine-hunters onto the MV Blue Marlin’s deck for transport.

The heavy lift vessel MV Blue Marlin with its deck cargo of the Sea-Based X-Band Radar enters Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, after completing a 15,000-mile journey from Corpus Christi, Texas, on January 9, 2006.

MV Mighty Servant 2 carries USS Samuel B. Roberts from Dubai to Newport, R.I., in 1988.

Mighty Servant 3 carrying her last cargo


Kungur Ice Cave, Russia

Kungur Ice Cave is a karst cave located in the Urals, near the town Kungur in Perm Krai, Russia, on the banks of the Sylva River. With a length of explored passages over 5 km, it is one of Russia’s biggest karst caves and the only one in the country equipped for visits by tourists. Over thousands of years rainwater dissolved the soft rocks and formed a system of spacious underground halls, filled with rocks of peculiar shapes. Snow-melt dripping through the porous rocks had frozen in the cold interior of the cave to turn into ice stalactites that hang from the ceiling in completely unpredictable forms and remarkable sizes. Some of the hanging icicles have reached the floor and formed spectacular ice columns shaped like giant hourglasses.

One of the most beautiful places in the cave is right near the entrance: the Diamond grotto. Layers of ancient ice in these chambers overflow under spotlights, bringing to mind a frozen waterfall, while vaults cover large crystals. Diamond grotto adjoins Polar grotto where it is possible to observe ice stalactites and stalagmites. In the grotto of Pompeii Ruins visitors can see rocks of strange shapes some of them resembling silhouettes of animal and fantastic characters, thanks to the special system of illumination.

In all, Kungur Cave contains 48 grottoes, each having their own story and unique name. For example, there are the Coral and Sea Bottom chambers, which are ornamented with stone lace that water wore away for 12,000 years. In the Meteorite chamber, a viewer has the illusion that huge celestial bodies are lying under the earth.

The first plan of the ice cave was made in 1703 when Peter the Great issued the decree sending the well-known geographer Simeon Remezov. Using the materials of Remezov drawings, Stralenberge (a member of Messershmidt Siberian expedition) made one of the first schemes of the cave which we can see now.

The first regular excursions of the ice cave was made by Alexey Timofeevich Hlebnikov, the grandnephew of the Russian America researcher K.T.Hlebnikov. In 1914 Hlebnikov, having rented the cave from a local community of peasants, started to arrange paid excursions for inhabitants of Kungur and visitors of the city. Owing to Alexey Hlebnikov's diligence, the news about Kungur’s outstanding ice cave quickly scattered to different corners of the country. Today the cave is visited by hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.


Laguna Colorada, Bolivia

Laguna Colorada, or the Red Lagoon, is a shallow salt lake located at an altitude of 14,000 feet in the southwest of the altiplano of Bolivia, within Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve and close to the border with Chile. Dotted with white islands of massive borax deposits, the nearly 15,000-acre salt lake is less than three feet deep, and is tinted blood red due to a variety of algae which thrive in the salt water. The plankton rich lake draws a large number of endangered James flamingos, which is another highlight of the lake.

The altiplano has many large lagoons also known for their brilliant colours due to the minerals in their waters, for instance, Laguna Verde is known for its remarkable emerald-green waters. But Laguna Colorada is the only large red lagoon in the Reserve.

The majority of the landscape around Laguna Colorada is desert rocks and salt deposits. The air temperature is often below freezing at dawn but warms decently during the summer months making excursions into the Reserve quite pleasant. Another famous location, the salt flats of Salar De Uyuni, lies not far away.

The Reserve around Laguna Colorada is home to a wide variety of indigenous birds and animals that amazingly thrive in the hostile landscape. Three of the world's six flamingo species - Chilean, Andean and James flamingoes - inhabit the freshwater lakes and saltwater lagoons of the Reserve. The Reserve also provides habitat to mammals include pumas, Andean foxes and cats, domesticated llamas and alpacas, as well as reptiles, amphibians and fish.