‘Mod Squad’ Poised for Project Modules

‘Mod Squad’ Poised for Project Modules


The world fleet contingent capable of transporting mammoth project cargo modules — what might be termed today’s “Mod Squad” — has two clear leaders in Dutch semisubmersible operator Boskalis and Chinese open-deck ship frontrunner Zhen Hua.

Dirk Visser, senior shipping consultant with Dynamar, a Netherlands-based marine information and intelligence consultancy, said in a report prepared for Breakbulk that those two carriers unmistakably offer more module transport capabilities than competitors in their respective segments.

Among semisubmersible operators, Boskalis, the Netherlands-based dredging firm that entered the heavy marine transport business with its 2013 acquisition of Dockwise, offered 19 such ships, with total deadweight tonnage of 937,400, as 2018 came to a close. Visser noted that Boskalis recently announced plans to begin divesting itself of a significant portion of its closed-stern fleet, but the process had yet to begin.

“Hence, Boskalis is still by far the largest operator in the semisubmersible segment,” Visser said.

The semisubmersible fleet, which is particularly important to the oil and gas industry, including for movement of offshore rigs, floating production units, platforms and modules, numbered 59 ships among operators of multiple such vessels, with Boskalis accounting for nearly one-third of the ship count.

Ranking second in Visser’s accounting of semisubmersible tonnage is Zhen Hua, the in-house carrier of Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Co. Ltd., or ZPMC, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of cranes and other large steel structures.

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Zhen Hua is listed as providing eight semisubmersibles affording total deadweight tonnage of 437,300, followed by COSCO Heavy Transport (with seven ships totaling 321,800 dwt), Norway’s GPO Heavy Lift (with half of a purposed-built contingent of four semisubmersibles already delivered, to offer a total of 257,200 dwt when all are in place by the end of 2019) and Norway’s Offshore Heavy Transport (with five such ships totaling 206,500 dwt).

Among operators of open-deck heavy-lift ships, Zhen Hua decidedly dominates, boasting 19 ships, including converted tankers and bulkers, with total deadweight tonnage of 787,800 amid a global fleet of just 35 such vessels affording total deadweight tonnage of 1,092,400.

“Indeed, this may be one of the smallest defined shipping segments,” Visser said of the open-deck fleet.

A distant second on the list of operators of open-deck heavy-lift vessels is DongBang, with five such ships totaling 74,300 dwt. Based in South Korea, the company specializes in transport of ship hull parts for the country’s substantial shipbuilding industry. Another South Korean carrier, TPI Mega Line, is third on the list, with three open-deck ships totaling 54,500 dwt.

“It seems open-deck ships are sometimes purpose-built for a special project, with the operator hoping to find other cargo for them once the project is finished,” Visser said.

One example is the development of the BigRoll joint venture of RollDock and Spliethoff’s BigLift, formed to meet module transport needs associated with the US$27 billion Yamal liquefied natural gas project in the Russian Arctic. With that work done, two of the four identical open-deck ships used in the effort have reverted to BigLift and the other two are operated by BigRoll.


Image credit: Boskalis



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