Friday, April 3, 2020

How to Move a Gigantic Floating Spacecraft Launch Platform

Project Freight Forwarding Alive and Well
Shipping News Feature

US – RUSSIA –So how does one move a 436-foot long by 220-foot wide semi-submersible mobile spacecraft launch platform? It seems project freight forwarding, which always provides some of the most interesting trade case studies, continues to turn up with the goods as this epic demonstrates.

The LP Odyssey, a self-propelled, semi-submersible mobile spacecraft launch platform, had been anchored at its Port of Long Beach home for more than 20 years and was scheduled to be shipped to the eastern coast of Russia, just south of Port of Vladivostok, aboard the Xin Guang Hua heavy transport ship.

Crowley Marine Services accepted the task of loading the platform onto the COSCO owned ocean vessel, itself of course semi-submersible, from Barber Moss Ship Management on behalf of Sea Launch/S7 Space, and the necessary equipment and all relevant permits and permissions were assembled within just 48 hours.

The operation to load the giant platform required the services of five Crowley tugboats, Master, Leader, Admiral, Veteran and Scout, to first tow the platform from Los Angeles Harbour to an outside anchorage near Long Beach. Once safely anchored the platform was to be floated onto the Xin Guang Hua heavy transport ship for final transport to the Russian coast.

Unfortunately, weather conditions and resulting sea swells at anchorage delayed the final set down of the platform onto the ship. The Crowley tugs continued on stand by while authorities and Crowley’s operations team developed an alternative solution. Shortly thereafter, it was determined that the best course of action was to move the platform and heavy-lift ship back inside the harbour break water to a suitable depth of water for the operation.

In a perfect demonstration of how versatility and the ability to change plans on these big projects is an essential element, acting in close coordination with local authorities and the US Coast Guard, Crowley’s operations team formulated a plan for a loading window that would minimise interruptions to other port traffic in the busiest port in the United States.

Two days after the initial attempt, the heavy-lift vessel was staged inside the break water under a Crowley tug escort, while the other four Crowley tugs positioned the LP Odyssey over the heavy-lift vessel, and the customer’s operations team de-ballasted and fastened the LP Odyssey for transport. Josh Ellis, vice president of operations and engineering, Crowley’s marine services group, commented:

“We are very proud of our crew, who did an excellent job of exceeding our customer’s expectations despite the challenges of the operation and maintaining the highest level of flexible and safe operations. Thanks to our excellent team, we were able to activate our vessels and position them onsite for this unique job very quickly. Our team, from shore to office, performed seamlessly together in the safe loading of the LP Odyssey onto the Xin Guang Hua.”

Crowley’s Master, Leader, Admiral and Scout are 105-foot, US flagged, Harbor Class tractor tugs. They feature Voith Schneider, twin-cycloidal propulsion and a hydrofoil-shaped skeg that provides for greatly improved steering, control and seakeeping ability when the vessel runs at high speeds in the skeg-first direction. In addition, the unique hydrodynamics of the hull result in increased tons of steering and braking force, which are available to assist or control a vessel at higher speeds.

Crowley tug Veteran is one of two highly manoeuvrable, Valor Class tugs suitable for ship assist, tanker escort and general towing service. The tugs have Rolls Royce Aquamaster Z-drive units and can generate over 90 tonnes of direct bollard pull. The deep forward-skeg design of the hull results in excellent directional stability as well as providing additional indirect-pull for assist and escort operations. The Markey DEPC 52 bow winch has full render/recover capability, maximising ship handling versatility and safety as well as allowing for full wheelhouse control.

Photo: The flotilla in action around the massive bulk of the self-propelled, semi-submersible mobile spacecraft launch platform.