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World's Heaviest Vessel Sets Sail for Sea Trials

By MarEx 2016-08-08 21:15:36

On Saturday, the world's largest vessel by displacement sailed from Rotterdam on sea trials.

The Pioneering Spirit, a topsides removal/installation vessel, completed her lifting system commissioning last week and set sail on August 6 for a series of sea trials. Her owner, Allseas, says that she will conduct the trials through August, including several removal and installation evolutions in various sea states.

Allseas purchased the support frame and jacket of BP's defunct North West Hutton platform for purposes of the test, a 5,500 tonne structure which the new vessel will lift up and down for its trials. The lifts will test her active motion compensation system, a key component of her ability to pick up the massive platforms without causing impact damage from rolling and heaving motions. 

After commissioning, she will head north to Repsol's Yme mobile offshore production unit, which is slated for removal. She will then return to Rotterdam for installation of four additional lifting beams on her pontoons, which are to be used next summer for removing Royal Dutch Shell's Brent Delta platform. The Brent Bravo, Brent Alpha and Brent Charlie topsides are scheduled to follow in the next few years.

The Spirit is unique in her ability to lift heavy topsides assemblies in a single piece – an approach that could save the offshore industry as much as $12 billion in costs, according to analysts' estimates, as it eliminates the need to dismantle a complex facility at sea. Even before her completion, the $2.8 billion vessel secured decommissioning contracts with oil majors.

She has also been contracted for the installation of the three topsides facilities at Johan Sverdrup, Norway's most promising offshore discovery in years.

In addition to her equipment for topsides lifts, she is the world’s heaviest-capacity pipelaying vessel, adding another way for her to generate revenue for the company. 

The Spirit is a massive ship, but Allseas is already planning to build a larger successor – the Amazing Grace, designed to lift topsides of up to 72,000 tonnes.