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A crane vessel, crane ship or floating crane is a ship that is specialized in lifting heavy loads. The largest crane vessels are often used for offshore construction. The larger vessels are often semi-submersibles, but also conventional monohulls are used. One of the differences with a sheerleg is that the cranes can rotate.


In medieval Europe, crane vessels which could be flexibly deployed in the whole port basin were introduced as early as the 14th century.In 1920, the 1898-built battleship 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 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 Mexicomarker, the cradle of the offshore industry, these barges sufficed.

In 1963 Heerema converted a Norwegianmarker 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 Seamarker.

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, 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).

Largest crane vessels

Largest crane vessels
Vessel Company Capacity (mT) Type
Thialf Heerema Marine Contractors 14.200 (2 * 7100 tons) Semi-submersible
Saipem 7000 Saipem 14.000 (2 * 7000 tons) Semi-submersible
Svanen Ballast Nedam 8.700 Catamaran
DCV Hermod Heerema Marine Contractors 8.165 (1 * 4536, 1 * 3629) Semi-submersible
Balder Heerema Marine Contractors 6.350 (1 * 3629, 1 * 2722) Semi-submersible
Borealis Nordic Heavy Lift 5.000 Monohull
Oleg Strashnov Seaway Heavy Lifting 5.000 Monohull
DB 50 J. Ray McDermott 3.992 Monohull
Rambiz Scaldis 3.300 Catamaran
Asian Hercules II Smit 3.200 Monohull
DB 101 J. Ray McDermott 3.175 Semi-submersible
DB 30 J. Ray McDermott 2.800 Monohull
LTS 3000 Larsen and Toubro/Sapuracrest 2.722 Monohull
Sapura 3000 Sapura/Acergy 2.700 Monohull
Stanislav Yudin Seaway Heavy Lifting 2.500 Monohull
Saipem 3000 Saipem 2.177 Monohull


  1. * Michael Matheus: "Mittelalterliche Hafenkräne," in: Uta Lindgren (ed.): Europäische Technik im Mittelalter. 800-1400, Berlin 2001 (4th ed.), p.346 ISBN 3-7861-1748-9
  2. J. Ray McDermott ends HeereMac joint venture
  3. American Bureau of Shipping Record, Thialf
  4. GustoMSC
  5. GustoMSC
  6. GustoMSC
  7. Ulstein Sea of Solutions BV
  8. Huisman Equipment BV
  9. GustoMSC
  10. AsianH1.indd
  11. Scaldis Salvage & Marine Contractors NV
  12. GustoMSC
  13. Ulstein Sea of Solutions BV
  14. Ulstein Sea of Solutions BV
  15. Acergy - Sapura 3000
  16. GustoMSC

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