Pioneering Spirit

Pioneering Spirit  (formerly Pieter Schelte) is the largest construction vessel ever built. Inspired by the offshore heavy lifting pioneer Pieter Schelte Heerema (1908–81) and designed completely in-house, the vessel is designed for the single-lift installation and removal of large oil and gas platforms and the installation of record-weight pipelines.

The emergence of Pioneering Spirit  signifies a step-change in offshore installation and decommissioning. Built at the DSME shipyard in South Korea (2011–14), the vessel commenced offshore operations in 2016 with removal of the 13,500 t Yme production unit in the Norwegian North Sea. The single lift of Shell’s 24,200 t Brent Delta platform topsides in April 2017 marked the word’s heaviest offshore lift.

The twin-hulled vessel is 382 m long and 124 m wide. At the bow is a slot, 122 m long and 59 m wide, that enables Pioneering Spirit  to straddle a platform and remove entire topsides – up to 48,000 t – in a single lift using eight sets of horizontal lifting beams. Two tilting lift beams for the installation and removal of jackets – up to 20,000 t – will be located at the vessel’s stern. Complementing the lifting systems is a 5000 t special purpose crane for additional lifts such as lighter topsides and jackets, modules and bridges.

As a result of her unique lifting capacity, Pioneering Spirit  will significantly reduce the amount of offshore work associated with platform installation or decommissioning, largely moving this work to shore, where it is cheaper, safer and more environmentally friendly.

Pioneering Spirit’s large ship size gives her very good wave response behaviour, superior to semi-submersible crane vessels in operational wave conditions; topsides and jackets can be installed or removed in significant wave heights of up to 3.5 m. While the vessel moves due to wave action, all motions relative to the platform are eliminated by engaging the active motion compensation system, which enables Pioneering Spirit  to make large lifts in hostile seas.

Pioneering Spirit  can sail under her own power at a high transit speed, making her suitable for worldwide use. Operating on full dynamic positioning, she can work accurately in any water depth, while her light ice class will extend the periods in which she can operate in Polar Regions.

Pioneering Spirit  is also equipped with pipelay equipment that makes it possible to install record-weight pipelines from shallow to ultra-deep water, and achieve high lay rates. With an S-lay tension capacity of 2000 t, she surpasses Solitaire  as the world's largest pipelay vessel. Pioneering Spirit  commenced pipelay for the first line of the dual 32-inch, 900-km TurkStream pipeline in the Black Sea in June 2017.

Iron Lady
For the transfer of jackets and topsides to/from Pioneering Spirit, a 200 m long, 57 m wide cargo barge has been purpose built. This barge, Iron Lady, with its relatively shallow draught, will enable the loading or offloading of structures to or from the yard in case the water depth at the quayside is insufficient for Pioneering Spirit. The transfer of structures between Pioneering Spirit  and Iron Lady  will take place in sheltered water close to the yard.

In the event that Pioneering Spirit  is required for platform topsides installation or removal work, the stinger will be removed from the bow section of the vessel and stored on a purpose-built stinger barge, Bumblebee.

Technical design

Vessel specifications

Length overall (incl. tilting lift beams and stinger)477 m (1,565 ft) 
Length overall (excl. tilting lift beams and stinger)382 m (1,253 ft) 
Length between perpendiculars370 m (1,214 ft) 
Breadth124 m (407 ft) 
Depth to main deck30 m (98 ft) 
Slot length122 m (400 ft) 
Slot width59 m (194 ft) 
Topsides lift capacity48,000 t 
Jacket lift capacitySafe working load of 20,000 t, with six lifting blocks of 3,750 t each 
Operating draught10-27 m 
Maximum speed14 knots 
Displacement1,000,000 t (at maximum draught) 
Total installed power95,000 kW 
Thrusters12 x 6050 kW azimuth  
Dynamic positioning systemFully redundant, class 3 Kongsberg K-Pos DP-22 and 2 x cJoy system
Accomodation571 persons 
HelideckMaximum take-off weight 12.8 t, suitable for Sikorsky S-61 and S-92 helicopters 
Deck cranesSpecial purpose crane of 5000 t
Special purpose crane of 600 t
3 x pipe transfer cranes of 50 t 
Work stationsDouble-joint factory, with 5 line-up stations and 2 stations for combined external/internal welding
Firing line with 6 (double joint) welding stations
1 NDT station and 6 coating stations
Installed tension capacity4 x 500 t (4 x 1100 kips) 
Pipe cargo capacity on main deck27,000 t 
Pipe diametersFrom 2" to 68" OD 
Classifications100 A1 Heavy lift and heavy cargo ship, upper deck aft of frame 43 strengthened for load of 15 t/m²; helicopter landing area, LA, *IWS, LI, EP (B, G, N, O, P, S), ice class 1C FS , DP (AAA), PSMR* with following descriptive note: Pipelaying vessel ShipRight BWMP (S+F), split bow forward of frame 99 
Port of registryValletta

Pioneering Spirit  projects