Of Heavy-Lift and Four-Masted Sailing Ships

Maritime Hawai‘i was chatting recently with one of the local harbor pilots about how easy it is for those working in or familiar with the various maritime industries to forget that the waterfront world can be a mystery to the general public. We casually throw out terms and expect everyone to understand what we are talking about.

As Maritime Hawai‘i and others have reported, part of the plan to save Hawai‘i’s National Historic Landmark ship Falls of Clyde from an ignoble fate involves transporting her to Scotland on a heavy-lift ship.

Heavy-lift ship? What is that?

Basically, a heavy-lift ship is a vessel that is designed to carry extra-large loads. There are different types of heavy-lift ships that are purpose-built or adapted to carry specific types of heavy cargo. One type that can be used to transport the Falls of Clyde to Scotland is what is known as a semi-submersible ship.

Semi-submersible heavy-lift ships have ballast tanks that are flooded with water in order to submerse the deck of the ship below the surface of the surrounding water. Vessels or other types of floating cargo can then be moved into position over the deck. The water is then pumped out of the ballast tanks, allowing the deck of the heavy-lift ship to rise above the surface of the water once more. While this is occurring, the cargo is being secured to the deck by the crew.

Hawai‘i readers of this site may remember local news coverage of the arrival of Dockwise White Marlin back in May of this year. She was here in Hawaiian waters to deliver Marisco’s new dry dock. She is an example of a semi-submersible heavy-lift ship.

Dockwise White Marlin with Peleke Nui

Dockwise White Marlin anchored off the south shore of O‘ahu with Marisco’s new dry dock, Peleke Nui. May 2017. (Photo courtesy of Rick Wilson)

What will moving a ship like the Falls of Clyde entail?

A project to move a historic ship like Falls of Clyde can take years to plan and execute. David O’Neill and the Friends of Falls of Clyde (FFOC) are under the gun to do it in a few months, according to the timeline that Bruce McEwan of the FFOC has given to various media outlets.

On his end, Mr. O’Neill has to negotiate with a heavy-lift ship company regarding the costs associated with insuring and transporting Falls of Clyde as cargo. Then he needs to secure funding or other types of support to cover these costs. Once an agreement is made, then a ship can be scheduled to receive Falls of Clyde. The most cost-effective and practical arrangement would be to load her on a vessel that is already scheduled to be in the Pacific region to offload cargo.

On a local level, the effort to move the Falls of Clyde on to a heavy-lift ship from her current berth at Pier 7 will involve coordination with DOT Harbors, the US Coast Guard, naval architects, ship agents, harbor pilots, tugs, stevedores, and others. This is in addition to any work on board Falls of Clyde that has to be done ahead of time.

Weather conditions, sea conditions, harbor specs (including depth) must also be considered during the planning.

Peking as an Example

This past week saw the four-masted barque Peking moved on to the heavy-lift ship Combi Dock III in preparation for her journey from New York to Germany.

Peking being moved on to Combi Dock III.

Tugs carefully maneuvering Peking into Combi Dock III on 14 July 2017. (Photo by Will Van Dorp/tugster: a waterblog)

tugster: a waterblog features an excellent series of photos showing the arrival of Combi Dock III and the process of loading Peking on to her.

Combi Dock III and the Peking Saga 1

Combi Dock III and the Peking Saga 2

Combi Dock III and the Peking Saga 3

Combi Dock III and the Peking Saga 4

Like Falls of Clyde, Peking’s fate was once uncertain. Now, cooperation and coordination between South Street Seaport Museum and the German government has given her a new life. Maritime Hawai‘i hopes that all parties involved with the Falls of Clyde are willing and able to cooperate and do what it takes to give her a new life in Scotland.

17 07.08 Falls of Clyde at Pier 7

Falls of Clyde waits patiently… 8 July 2017.

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