Five Tugs Move Spacecraft Launch Platform Onto Heavy Lift Ship

Image courtesy Crowley Maritime

Published Apr 3, 2020 9:40 PM by The Maritime Executive

Five Crowley tugboats recently worked together to load the semi-submersible mobile spacecraft launch platform LP Odyssey onto a heavy-lift ship on behalf of Sea Launch/S7 Space. The Crowley tugs Master, Leader, Admiral, Veteran and Scout towed the platform from Los Angeles Harbor to an outside anchorage near Long Beach. Once at anchorage, the 436-foot long by 220-foot wide platform was to be floated onto the Xin Guang Hua heavy transport ship for final transport to the eastern coast of Russia, just south of Port of Vladivostok. 

Unfortunately, weather conditions and swells at the anchorage delayed the final set down of the platform onto the ship. After consultation, the Crowley team and local authorities decided that the best course of action was to move the platform and heavy-lift ship back inside the harbor to a site with enough depth of water for the operation. Crowley’s operations team designed a plan for a loading window that would minimize interruptions to other traffic in the busiest seaport in the United States.

Two days after the initial attempt, the heavy-lift vessel was staged inside the breakwater with a tug escort, while the other four tugs positioned the LP Odyssey in place on its deck. The LP Odyssey's operations team de-ballasted and fastened the vessel for transport. 

“Thanks to our excellent team, we were able to activate our vessels and position them onsite for this unique job very quickly. Our team, from shore to office, performed seamlessly together in the safe loading of the LP Odyssey onto the Xin Guang Hua," said Josh Ellis, vice president of operations and engineering, Crowley’s marine services group. 

Crowley’s Master, Leader, Admiral, and Scout are twin cycloidal drive harbor tugs, and the Veteran is a Z-drive ship assist / general towing tug with 90 tons of bollard pull.