Pioneering Spirit was installed with a jacket-lifting system in 2021. Credit: kees torn/Wikimedia Commons.
Pioneering Spirit’s new jacket-lifting system enables offshore platform jackets to be removed in a single lift. Credit: Allseas.
Pioneering Spirit is a heavy-lift construction vessel delivered in 2016. Credit: Allseas.
Pioneering Spirit was built by DSME. Credit: Allseas.
Pioneering Spirit arrived in Rotterdam in January 2015. Credit: KOTUG.
Pioneering Spirit has a maximum topside lift capacity of 48,000t. Credit: KOTUG.

Pioneering Spirit is one of the largest construction vessels in the world and is designed to remove entire offshore installations in a single lift.

Allseas, an offshore pipe-laying company, placed a €454.5m shipbuilding contract with Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) for the heavy-lift construction vessel in June 2010 and received delivery in late 2014.

The vessel arrived in Rotterdam, Netherlands, in January 2015 for final assembly in Alexiahaven. Originally christened as Pieter Schelte, the vessel was renamed Pioneering Spirit in February 2015.

Pioneering Spirit entered service in 2016 with the deployment at Talisman’s Yme platform in the Norwegian North Sea. It is capable of performing single-lift installation and decommissioning of large offshore oil and gas platforms, as well as the installation of subsea oil and gas pipelines.

Pioneering Spirit was the world’s biggest heavy-lift construction vessel at the time of its delivery. The vessel set a world lifting record with the removal of the 24,000-tonne (t) Brent Delta platform topsides for Shell UK from the North Sea in April 2017.

The vessel reached the 330,000t mark for lifted platform weight in 2022.

Pioneering Spirit design and features

The vessel incorporates a catamaran hull design integrating a dynamic positioning system and motion compensation system. Its forward hull features a slot that is used to lift topsides. Detailed design of the hull was concluded in May 2010.

Pioneering Spirit has an overall length of 382m, breadth of 124m, and a depth of 30m. It has a topside lift capacity of 48,000t, jacket lift capacity of 25,000t, and pipe cargo carrying capacity of 27,000t. It accommodates up to 571 personnel in two berth cabins.

Deck equipment and systems

The forward bow section offers a 122m x 59m dedicated slot for lifting topsides using eight horizontal lifting beams. The aft side of the ship features two tilting lift beams for installing and removing jackets.

Beams can also act as cranes for performing the installation or removal of modules and bridges.

The deck is installed with three pipe transfer cranes, each with a lift capacity of 50t at a 33m reach, and a special-purpose crane with a lifting capacity of 600t at 20m. The vessel is fitted with the Kongsberg K-Pos DP-22 dynamic positioning system and two cJoy compact joystick control systems.

It also features a double-joint factory with five line-up stations and two stations for internal/external welding purposes, a main firing line with six welding stations for double joints, a non-destructive testing station, and six coating stations. A helicopter deck is provided to support the operations of a single rotorcraft.

Jacket lift system

Allseas developed a new and second lift system named the Jacket lift system (JLS) for the Pioneering Spirit. The JLS allows the vessel to remove and install jackets supporting the decks of an offshore platform, weighing up to 20,000t in a single lift.

Installed in 2021, the new JLS features two connected 170m long-lifting steel beams weighing 6,500t and a hang-off and upend system (HOUS) installed on the vessel’s stern. The HOUS includes an upend system comprising a set of 50m skid tracks equipped with push-pull mechanisms. The functions of the HOUS include raising and tilting the 170m lifting beams into the jacket lift position.

The JLS can reduce costs and minimise safety and environmental risks for offshore work that requires lengthy and complex cutting operations. It also removes the need for barges and offers greater capacity, stability and workability in harsh environmental conditions.

In April 2022, Pioneering Spirit completed the lifting of CNR International’s Ninian Northern platform jacket weighing 8,100t from the North Sea using the vessel’s jacket-lifting technology for the first time. The vessel had previously removed the topsides of the platform in August 2020.

Navigation and communications

The bow and stern sides of the vessel feature two Kongsberg K-Bridge navigation bridge systems installed with multifunction displays. The systems employ new radar transceiver technology to transfer signals of eight radar transceivers on a LAN.

Systems also integrate modern features such as the capability to compound radar images from multiple transceivers by presenting them as a single composite image, which avoids blind spots and offers a 360-degree view around the ship.

The communication network on board the vessel combines the dynamic positioning system, thruster control, and navigation and machinery automation systems into a comprehensive solution offering unique positioning and manoeuvring capabilities in complex operations.

The vessel is fitted with subsea position reference systems, including a high-precision acoustic positioning system from Kongsberg Maritime. The systems are designed to ensure the accuracy of the on-board DP system.

Propulsion and power

Pioneering Spirit is powered by eight MAN 20V 32/44 generator sets and a nine-litre 32/44 engine. Diesel gen-sets, with a total installed power of 95,000kW, drive 13 azimuth thrusters ensuring dynamic positioning and propulsion. The thrusters are capable of rotating 360 degrees to propel and position the vessel.

Rolls-Royce was awarded a contract for the supply of 13 large azimuth thrusters for the vessel. The £18m contract is the biggest thruster order received by Rolls-Royce for a single vessel. The propulsion system provides the vessel with a maximum speed of 14 knots.

Contractors involved

Deltamarin was awarded a contract to provide detailed design covering naval architecture, structural and system engineering, as well as accommodation of the Pioneering Spirit in February 2010.

Swan Hunter provided assistance for concept development, as well as structural and outfit engineering of the vessel.

The JLS was designed by Huisman, a heavy construction equipment designer and manufacturer.

The lifting beams of the JLS were constructed by CIMOLAI, a steel structures supplier.

Fall protection specialists Delta Plus Systems, IN-SAFETY, and Anticaduta were involved in the installation of a fall protection system for the JLS.

Trelleborg Sealing Solutions supplied a sealing configuration for the JLS while Avient, a sustainable material solutions provider, supplied its Dyneema lifting slings.