The Shipping industry is one of the biggest globalized industries out there, with its roots spanning commercial, military, energy and research for all of these aspects. Every once in a while, a use case comes forward, which shatters existing engineering norms prevalent across shipyards worldwide, creating benchmarks unseen in the industry.
Here in our top 10 list, we have handpicked such stories that are bound to make your jaw drop. Don’t believe me?
Well, consider this: Ships made of concrete, standing on 6 legs, splitting into two parts and picking up an entire submarine from the ocean floor. Sit tight as we unravel through the pages of history to discover the ultimate dance of steel and waves.
10. MPI Adventure: One of the strangest ship types constructed to date is the MPI Adventure, which has become known for its unique design. With a design made expressly for this job, the unusual vessel's mission is to transport and install large offshore wind turbines.
Its dual hulls, which resemble catamarans, offer outstanding stability and enable operations in rough seas. Because of its specific purpose, which puts stability and heavy-lifting skills ahead of conventional aesthetics, this ship has an odd appearance.
The ships were carefully designed to withstand even the most severe marine calamities. With a powerful 2,000 horsepower, the engine makes MPI Adventure incredibly responsive and agile.
This ship's unique feature is its ability to balance on six extremely tall "legs," which raise it above the water's surface. This distinctive design feature equips the ship to withstand any potential aquatic catastrophes. Both the MPI Adventure and MPI Discovery serve as platforms for offshore wind turbines, adding to Europe's affordable and environmentally responsible energy source.
The ship's unusual shape maximizes the amount of deck area and evenly distributes weight, which increases its effectiveness during challenging installation operations. This innovative approach challenges traditional ship design norms, earning the MPI Adventure its status as one of the most peculiar ship types to navigate the seas.
The MPI Adventure is employed in offshore wind energy projects, specializing in the installation of large wind turbines. Owned by Vroon Group, a Dutch shipping company, the ship's unique design and heavy-lifting capabilities make it a vital asset in the renewable energy sector's pursuit of sustainable power generation.
9. FLIP: Designed by the University of California, San Diego, the Floating Instrument Platform (FLIP) is a unique research vessel designed for oceanographic research, particularly in the field of marine acoustics and atmospheric studies. FLIP's construction took place at the Gunderson Bros. Engineering Corporation shipyard in Portland, Oregon, and it was launched in 1962.
As the name suggests, its most distinctive feature is it literally "flips" from a horizontal to a vertical position. In its horizontal position, it looks like a conventional ship, but it can be ballasted to rotate about its horizontal axis, causing it to pivot and stand vertically in the water, with more than 98% of its length submerged.
This configuration provides a stable platform for oceanographic research, particularly for the study of underwater sound propagation. This unique design minimizes the effects of wave motion on the measurements, enhancing the accuracy of collected data.
FLIP is owned by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and operated by Scripps Institution of Oceanography. It is deployed mainly in the Pacific Ocean for various research projects, including underwater acoustics, marine biology, meteorology, and geophysics. Its vertical profile allows scientists to conduct experiments that would be challenging or impossible on conventional vessels due to their motion in rough seas.
8. Ramform Hyperion: It is a state-of-the-art seismic vessel designed for geophysical exploration and data collection, used primarily in the oil and gas industry. It is part of the Petroleum Geo-Services (PGS) Ramform Titan-class fleet. The vessel was designed and constructed at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), Nagasaki, Japan.
Incorporating cutting-edge technology, the Ramform Hyperion is optimized for efficient seismic data acquisition. With a distinctive hull shape and widened stern, it enhances stability and reduces noise. High-quality seismic data collection is hence made possible even in the most challenging sea environments.
In addition to conducting seismic surveys in the North Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and other offshore regions with oil and gas exploration activity, the vessel is also used for conducting research on marine life. Due to its advanced seismic capabilities, it can acquire detailed subsurface images, allowing it to identify hydrocarbon reserves beneath the ocean surface.
7. Blue Marlin: The Blue Marlin is a colossal semi-submersible ship, built in 1999, designed to move huge drilling rigs atop its 712-foot deck. With a 75,000-ton capacity and used exclusively for long-distance transport of massive structures, it surely is one of a kind.
Operated by Dockwise, the ship features a submersible deck, lowering by 13 meters for easy cargo handling. It's powered by a 17,000 horsepower engine, reaching a maximum speed of 13 knots. Managed by a 24-person crew, it's like maneuvering a floating office block.
The Blue Marlin gained fame for moving the damaged USS Cole back to the US after a blast incident in Yemen. It also relocated the incomplete Australian warship HMAS Canberra and the Snøhvit gas refinery from Spain to Norway. Notably, it carried 22 barges, each nearly 3000 tons, from Korea to Rotterdam.
The ship is a critical support system in defense and energy industries for securely moving massive structures over vast waters, safeguarding billion-dollar investments. Beyond the Blue Marlin, Dockwise's new creation, the Dockwise Vanguard, promises more. Symbolizing engineering excellence and logistics mastery, the Blue Marlin shapes maritime transport like it has never before.
6. The Ship That Splits in Two: The Bottsand Class Oil Recovery Vessel, owned by the German Navy,it employs an innovative design to optimize oil spill cleanup. Unlike traditional vessels, it can physically split into two sections along its length, creating a larger area for collecting and containing oil-contaminated water. This unique feature significantly enhances the efficiency of the recovery process. By pumping the polluted water into specialized tanks, the oil is separated, saving valuable time and increasing flexibility during cleanup operations.
This remarkable capability is rooted in the vessel's twin-hull concept, which grants it superior transverse stability compared to single-hull designs. This design choice allows for the vessel to split apart without compromising its structural integrity. The Bottsand Class vessel exemplifies an ingenious solution for addressing oil spills, demonstrating the potential for enhanced collection and mitigation efforts. While traditional oil recovery vessels optimize through propulsion machinery alignment, this vessel's groundbreaking approach offers a distinct advantage in managing environmental disasters effectively.
5. Pioneering Spirit (formerly Pieter Schelte): Conceptualized by Allseas Company, this behemoth reigns as the colossal contender for the world's largest ship. Unparalleled in design, it achieves the monumental task of lifting and replacing vast offshore platforms, often performing double duty as a pipelay vessel. Bloomberg aptly likens it to "picking a 48,000-ton flower."
Its distinctive deck, resembling two fingers at the bow, facilitates the buoyancy-driven process of lifting topsides. This ingenious method sidesteps the need for intricate knowledge of weight and center of gravity calculations for the platform.
Aboard its stern, the jacket of a platform finds a berth. These two segments can be transported to various destinations or brought ashore for dismantling, essentially serving as a delivery mechanism for platforms. With the capability to handle 95% of existing platforms worldwide, its shallow draught promises upgrades to encompass all offshore platforms. In addition to manipulating platforms, the vessel can lay pipes, thanks to its removable stinger.
4. Project Habakkuk: Project Habakkuk, also known as Habbakuk, was a remarkable World War II initiative that aimed to create an unsinkable aircraft carrier made of ice. Proposed by British inventor Geoffrey Pyke, this audacious plan sought to address the challenges of protecting Allied convoys in the treacherous North Atlantic, where German U-boats posed a significant threat.
The concept behind Project Habakkuk was to construct a massive floating platform using a mixture of ice and wood pulp known as pykrete. This material, which was stronger and more resilient than pure ice, would be used to build a gigantic aircraft carrier that could serve as a base for launching air raids against German submarines.
The proposed carrier was to be an astonishing 2,000 feet long and capable of accommodating a fleet of aircraft. The ice structure would provide a natural defense against torpedoes and bombs, making it virtually unsinkable. Additionally, the carrier's refrigeration system would ensure that the ice remained intact even in warmer waters.
Despite its promising potential, Project Habakkuk faced numerous challenges, including the difficulty of constructing such a massive structure and the logistical issues of transporting the necessary materials. Ultimately, the project was deemed too ambitious and expensive, and it was shelved in 1943.
3. Concrete Ship-USS ATLANTUS: The SS Atlantus remains a peculiar anomaly in ship construction history. Born out of necessity during World War I due to steel scarcity, these vessels embodied the unexpected marriage of concrete and maritime engineering. Commissioned by the U.S. government as a rapid response to the war effort, 24 concrete ships were planned, but only a dozen were realized. The Atlantus, among the first, showcased the innovative design approach.
Concrete ships defied conventional wisdom by employing a combination of air-tight compartments and a large hull, much like traditional steel vessels, to ensure buoyancy. The Atlantus, for instance, featured a 250-foot-long hull that displaced more weight in seawater than its 3,000-ton mass. This concrete hull was reinforced with a steel skeleton for added strength.
These concrete ships were envisioned as temporary solutions due to their inherent limitations. R.J. Wig, the head engineer of the project, acknowledged their expected life span of only three to four years due to deteriorating elements. The end of World War I and the availability of steel rendered these experimental ships obsolete, as they consumed excessive fuel, moved slowly, and were unsuitable for trans-Atlantic voyages. Sailors even skeptically referred to them as "floating tombstones."
The Atlantus, after a brief period of active duty, was repurposed as the cornerstone of a concrete wharf project by Colonel Jesse Rosenfeld. However, fate had other plans. The vessel broke free during a storm, ran aground, and gradually succumbed to disintegration over the years. By 1961, it had split into two parts, serving as a testament to the unconventional attempt to meld concrete and maritime engineering.
While the Atlantus may have met a less than dignified end, the concept of concrete ships did not end there. Following World War I, some concrete ships were used for various purposes, including cargo transport and breakwaters. However, due to their inherent structural challenges and the emergence of more practical construction materials and methods, the era of concrete ships was mostly relegated to a unique experiment in maritime history.
2. Jahre Viking: The Seawise Giant, formerly known by various names such as Knock Nevis, Oppama, Happy Giant, Jahre Viking, and M/V Mont, held a remarkable place in maritime history due to its exceptional size and the series of transformations it underwent. Originally ordered by a Greek owner in 1979 from Sumitomo Heavy Industries, the vessel was initially named Oppama. However, due to the original owner's inability to take delivery, the ship was eventually sold to the Orient Overseas Container Line.
The ship's significance grew as it underwent multiple conversions and name changes. In a two-year refit process, it was elongated and given increased cargo capacity, emerging as the Seawise Giant. With a staggering deadweight capacity of 564,763 metric tonnes, an overall length of 458.45 meters, a beam of 69 meters, and a draft of 24.611 meters, the Seawise Giant became a true maritime marvel.
Its journey saw various owners and purposes: from being a storage and offloading unit to being rechristened with new names such as Happy Giant, Jahre Viking, and Knock Nevis. Each transformation marked a new chapter in its story.
Designed for unparalleled cargo capacity, the vessel's staggering dimensions - 458.45 meters in length, 69 meters in beam, and 24.611 meters in draft - demanded innovative solutions. Advanced materials like high-strength steel ensured structural integrity without excessive weight. Assembled at Japan's Sumitomo Heavy Industries, the ship's colossal sections were meticulously welded. Transformations over time showcased adaptive engineering, notably converting it into a floating storage and offloading unit. Operating this behemoth necessitated advanced navigation systems. The Seawise Giant stands as a testament to groundbreaking naval architecture and engineering prowess.
1.CIA’s Glomar Explorer: Topping our list is a narrative intertwining a Cold War intrigue, covert operations, and remarkable engineering feats. In 1968, the Soviet submarine K-129, carrying nuclear missiles, sank, prompting the CIA and industrialist Howard Hughes to embark on a mission to recover it. The K-129 lay 17,000 feet underwater, making retrieval a monumental challenge. After covertly locating the wreck using advanced hydrophones, the U.S. Navy positioned the submarine USS Halibut, equipped with a specially designed submersible, to photograph the site. However, the U.S. desired more than images; they sought access to the SS-N-5 Serb nuclear missiles and cryptographic equipment onboard .
In response, Project Azorian emerged as a sprawling CIA operation, enlisting Howard Hughes' Global Marine Development to construct the Glomar Explorer under the guise of deep-sea mining. The ship's pioneering stability equipment and a hidden moon pool allowed a submersible device to retrieve the submarine. The operation's secrecy was paramount, even if it meant sinking the Glomar Explorer should it face Soviet intervention. The mission was groundbreaking, costing $800 million (equivalent to $4 billion today) and involving elaborate cover stories.
The Glomar Explorer set sail in 1974, accompanied by Soviet surveillance ships, but managed to lower its submersible device through the moon pool and latch onto the K-129. Tragedy struck during retrieval, causing the grabber arms to fail, dropping a portion of the submarine back to the seabed. The CIA's response of "neither confirm nor deny" to inquiries became known as the "Glomar response."
The Glomar Explorer's subsequent history saw its conversion for deep-sea drilling and eventual acquisition by Transocean. However, it faced an ignoble end as it was scrapped in China in 2015.
Written by ANKUR KUNDU