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.
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 (BB-5) 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 battle ships under construction. Another remarkable feat was the raising of the USS Squalus (SS-192) in 1939.
In 1942, the Crane Ships aka "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 the Derrick Barge Four built, a barge that was outfitted with a 150 tons revolving crane. 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, the 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, the Hermod and the Balder, each with one 2000 ton and one 3000 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 the DB-102 was launched for McDermott, with two cranes with a capacity of 6000 tons each. Micoperi had the M7000 built in 1986 with two cranes of 7000 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 80s – to take over the M7000 in 1995, later renaming it Saipem 7000. In 1997 Heerema took over the DB-102 from McDermott after discontinuation of their joint venture. The ship was renamed Thialf and, after an upgrade in 2000 to twice 7100 tons, it is now the largest crane vessel in the world even if all the world's lifting records belong to the Saipem 7000 (12150t of Sabratha Deck).
Heavy lift vessels
|Sleipnir||Heerema Marine Contractors||2018||20,000 (10,000 + 10,000 tandem, revolving)||Semi-submersible|
|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||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|
|Yorigami Maritime Construction Co., Ltd.||?||4,100||Sheerleg Barge|
|Aegir||Heerema Marine Contractors||2012||4,000||Monohull||IMO number: 9605396|
|Gulliver||Scaldis||2017||4,000 (2,000 + 2,000 tandem)||Sheerleg Barge|
|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|
|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|
|DB 30||J. Ray McDermott||?||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|
|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|
|Left Coast Lifter||Fluor/American Bridge/Granite/Traylor Brothers JV||2009||1,699||Sheerleg Barge|
|Asian Hercules||Asian Lift (Keppel Fels/Smit International JV)||?||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|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Floating cranes.|
- A Gigantic Muscle of Steel: it picks up a sunken tugboat from the harbor bottom as easily as you'd lift ten pounds off the floor, Popular Science monthly, February 1919, page 67, Scanned by Google Books