The Enormous Ship That Submerges Itself to Carry Entire Oil Rigs

Posted: July 10, 2014

By: Jordan Golson [Wired]

After the U.S.S. Cole was attacked in Yemen in October 2000, the Navy needed to get the damaged ship to Pascagoula, Mississippi for repairs and refit. But you can’t just tow a ship with a 40-foot hole in its side through the Indian and Atlantic Oceans and hope it stays afloat. So it hired Dockwise, a Dutch shipping outfit whose specialty is moving enormous pieces of cargo.

Dockwise sent the MV Blue Marlin, which sailed up to the Cole and used its huge ballast tanks to submerge itself. It slid underneath the destroyer before rising up and lifting the entire ship out of the water, and carried it just like any other cargo. The 505-foot Cole easily fit on the Blue Marlin’s 584′ x 206′ deck. It was successfully moved from Yemen to Mississippi and returned to Navy service within a few years.

Impressive at the Blue Marlin is, it pales in comparison to its younger, much larger brother, the Vanguard. Built in 2012, the world’s largest float-on/float-off ship doesn’t have a traditional stern or bow. All its buoyancy casings, which keep the ship from keeling over, including several that are movable to accommodate different loads, are mounted on the side of ship.

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