Oceangoing giants

Elaine Maslin
Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Rotterdam was home to three giants of the sea in early March – offshore industry flagships, not least Allseas’ newly renamed Pioneering Spirit. Elaine Maslin took a tour.

Pioneering Spirit’s lifting beams loom from its bows. Photos from Allseas.

Rotterdam is used to large vessels. One of the largest ports in the world, it is regularly home to the world’s largest container ships.

However, even they have been challenged in scale by Allseas’ Pioneering Spirit, previously named Pieter Schelte, after Allseas founder Edward Heerema’s father.

At 382m-long, the Pioneering Spirit is close in length to the world’s largest container ship, the 400m-long CSCL Globe. However, at 124m-wide, to enable its topsides lifting functionality, the twin-hull Pioneering Spirit is more than double the CSCL’s 58.6m width.

The vessel’s inauguration in Rotterdam, late February, marked the culmination of nearly three decades’ work. The icing on the cake was a three-platform lifting contract with Statoil on the Johan Sverdrup development, signed the night before the inauguration and announced on the day by Allseas’ founder Edward Heerema, who has driven the vision for the vessel.

“My father taught to always think outside the box, to tread beyond the beaten path,” said Edward Heerema, during the inauguration on a specially adapted barge installed between the vessel’s twin hull lifting slot, reflecting on how his father had introduced innovations to the industry, including the semisubmersible crane vessels Balder and Hermod. “They were ahead of their time,” Heerema said. “When you have vision you have to have courage to pursue it boldly and relentlessly and you have to build on speculation. You can have a nice design but you are not going to get a contract based on a nice design.”

One of Pioneering Spirit’s engine rooms. 

On the sidelines of the inauguration, Allseas also named what will become its second mega-lift vessel, Amazing Grace, which is planned to be able to lift 72,000-tonne topsides, compared to the Pioneering Spirit’s 48,000-tonne capacity. Amazing Grace, expected to cost more than €3 billion, is due to be delivered in 2021, but Allseas has yet to choose a fabrication yard, Edward Heerema said.

“She has to be able to lift the heaviest, the widest and the largest topsides in the world,” he said, such as Troll, Sleipner, Gullfaks and Magnus in the North Sea. “She will be similar to Pioneering Spirit, having two bows on a big single ship, but the lifting method will be slightly different,” he said, suggesting an evolution of the Pioneering Spirit’s design. “We are excited about the idea we have, but it is still a fluid design.”

Pioneering Spirit’s inauguration paid tribute to Edward Heerema’s father, Pieter Schetle.
Photos from Allseas.


Pioneering Spirit was designed to make a significant impact on the heavy lift capability currently available in the global offshore market, both for platform installation and decommissioning; and pipelay with its 2000-tonne (2205 short tons) tension capacity S-Lay pipelay package. Its lift capability is 48,000-tonne (53,000 short tons) for topsides and 25,000-tonne (27,500 short tons) for jackets.

Installation of the jacket lifting equipment has been delayed, but will be installed in time to lift the jacket on Shell’s Brent Alpha platform, which is part of a multi-platform lifting contract Allseas has with Shell on the Brents. The vessel’s pipelay stinger has been fabricated and is in Vlissingen, Netherlands, ready to be installed.

For Statoil, the Pioneering Spirit will install three topsides (ca.26,000-ton production platform, ca.25,000-tonne drilling platform and 19,500-tonne living quarters) and interconnecting bridges on Johan Sverdrup in 2018 and 2019.

The vessel, which will remain in Rotterdam for the completion of the installation of its eight twin sets of lifting beams, already has contracts with Shell and Talisman for single lift and decommissioning jobs, all secured ahead of its final completion.

Heerema said the development of the vessel had been a “roller coaster ride” with the designers, builders, and those who had to secure contracts for the vessel. Initially, Allseas had planned to use two very large crude carriers to create the vessel, which would have been anchored to perform operations. But after some consideration a newbuild, DP vessel, with more complex motion compensation was chosen, using Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering in Korea.

The first job for the Pioneering Spirit will be lifting off Talisman’s doomed Yme topsides in the Norwegian North Sea. Before that, the vessel will perform test lifts in the southern North Sea, using a specially fabricated test platform, based on the module support platform of the former North West Hutton platform.

After Yme, Pioneering Spirit will start a project with Shell, removing the Brent platforms. The first will be Brent Delta in May next year. The vessel had been due to work on the South Stream project, but the project has been deferred.

Ceona’s Ceona Amazon at Huisman Equipment’s facility in Schiedam, Netherlands. Photo from Ceona Offshore.

Ceona Amazon

Meanwhile, Ceona Offshore’s deepwater multi-purpose Ceona Amazon recently left Huisman Equipment’s yard in Schiedam and will this summer undertake its first job in record time from drawing board to mobilization. The contract for the construction of the vessel was signed in July 2013, just over a year after the company was formed, and 20 months later the vessel will be delivered complete, thanks to using existing designs and not being tempted to change them through the build, says Ceona.

For its first job, the 199.4m-long and 32.2m-wide Ceona Amazon, built by Lloyd Werft in Bremerhaven, will work on the Coelacanth Export Pipelines project for Walter Oil & Gas in the US Gulf of Mexico. The project involves installation of rigid oil and gas export lines, as well as pipeline end termination structures, to tie the new Coelacanth platform into existing pipeline infrastructure, all in a single mobilization.

The Ceona Amazon’s hull is based on an existing Huisman hull design – already used for the Noble Globetrotter I and II drilling units. The vessel has a G-lay pipelay configuration. For rigid pipelay, the on-deck firing line will be used with a lay function similar to S-lay. Instead of going over the stern, it will deflect around the stern wheel, with 75-tonne in-line tensioner, then midships vertical lay tower before going vertically, or up to 30% from vertical, down, with the vessel steaming stern-wards.

The Huisman-built 600-tonne deepwater pipelay system, incorporating a 62m-high vertical lay tower, including two four-track retractable tensioners for rigid, flexibles and umbilicals, was installed at the firm’s Schiedam facility earlier this year.

The span between the VLS and the 18m-diameter stern wheel is some 112m, wider than any competitors. But Ceona says it has done extensive work on the potential for vortex induced vibration and motion and says the effects are negligible.

The vessel also has two 400-tonne active heave compensated (AHC) masthead cranes, which can work in tandem lifting mode to lift structures down 3000m water depth, and a 30-tonne AHC knuckle boom crane, 4600sq m deck area, two Schilling UHDIII 250Hp work class ROVs, operated by ROVOP, and accommodation for up to 200 people. It can store up to 9500-tonne in its three holds, including a 3500-tonne carousel the firm is planning.

A 199m-long modular, on deck firing spread is due to be installed ahead of the vessel’s contract with Walter Oil & Gas. Ceona also has a reel drive ordered for the vessel, currently in Maritime Development’s yard in Peterhead, which may be mobilized on to the vessel for a contract with Bennu Oil & Gas (which bought the US assets of ATP Oil & Gas when that company went into administration) on the 4000ft deep water Mirage tie-back project to the Titan production facility in the Mississippi Canyon lease area of the US Gulf of Mexico.

The Ceona Amazon is currently Ceona’s fourth vessel, alongside the Polar Onyx (chartered from GC Rieber under a five-year deal which started last year), which has been working offshore Brazil performing deepwater flexibles installation for Petrobras, and the Normand Pacific (on charter from Solstad), which is working for ENI offshore Nigeria on subsea umbilicals, risers and flowlines projects. However, the Normand Pacific is due to go off hire in May/June. Ceona decided not to renew the charter due to the current market environment.

Ceona has been in discussions about expanding its fleet, however, short-term, the firm has not made any firm decisions, pending the current market, says Grant Dewbre, vice president business development. “We see overall market conditions in long run as being healthy and improving so definitely fleet expansion is something we will be looking at.”

Categories: Pipelines Vessels Europe Decommissioning Gulf of Mexico Installation Pipelay Vessel Deepwater Fabrication

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