Pioneering Spirit (ship)

Pioneering Spirit (previously named Pieter Schelte) is the world's largest vessel by gross tonnage. It was designed for the single-lift installation and removal of large oil and gas platforms and the installation of record-weight pipelines.[4][2]

Crane ship Pioneering Spirit, Maasvlakte 2, Rotterdam
  • 2014–2015: Pieter Schelte
  • 2015 onwards: Pioneering Spirit
Owner: Societe d'Exploitation Pieter Schelte NV[1]
Operator: Allseas Engineering B.V.
Port of registry:
Builder: Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co, Geoje
Yard number: 3401
Launched: 26 January 2013
Status: In service
General characteristics
Tonnage: 403,342 GT[2]
  • 365,000 tonnes (transit) [2]
  • 932,000 (maximum)[3]
  • 1,000,000 (at maximum draft) [2]
  • 382 m (1,253 ft) (hull) [2]
  • 477 m (1,565 ft) (maximum, including stinger and tilting lifting beams)[2]
Beam: 124 m (407 ft)[2]
Draft: 10–27 m (33–89 ft)[2]
Depth: 30 m (98 ft)[2]
Installed power: 8 x MAN diesel generator sets (each 11,200 kW)[4]
Propulsion: 12 x Rolls-Royce Diesel-electric azimuth thrusters (each 6,050 kW)[4]
Speed: 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph)[4]
Capacity: 48,000 tonne topsides lift capacity 25,000 tonne jacket lift capacity 2,000 tonne pipelay tensioner capacity
Crew: Accommodation for 571[4]

Designed by Swiss-based Allseas Group, the 382 m long, 124 m wide vessel was built in South Korea by Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (2011–14) at a cost of €2.6 billion and commenced offshore operations in August 2016.

In June 2017, Pioneering Spirit commenced pipelay for the first line of SouthStream Transport B.V's dual 930-km Turkish Stream pipeline in the Black Sea.[5]

Allseas has committed to building an even larger version of the same design, Allseas Amazing Grace, the delivery of which is planned for 2022.[6]


The initial concept, by Allseas,[4] was of a vessel capable of lifting entire platforms, and in 1987 Allseas declared its intention to build it.[7] The initial idea featured two rigidly connected, self-propelled supertankers, with a large slot at the bows enabling it to install platform topsides in one piece. Early designs featured a flotation and ballasting system and active motion compensation system to facilitate a controlled transfer of a topsides’ weight from the vessel to a platform substructure. Allseas developed the original idea to include steel jacket installation, jackets and topsides removal and rigid pipelay capabilities.[8]

The emphasis switched from the conversion of two existing tankers to a new-build hull in 2004, though retaining the catamaran concept.[9] The decision was prompted by a lack of suitable vessels to convert, the lower costs associated with a new-build, and the need to house sophisticated equipment – such as a dynamic positioning system – in the hull.[4]

In 2007, twenty years after the idea was first conceived, Allseas announced plans to build the Pieter Schelte, a twin-hulled platform installation / decommissioning and pipelay vessel.[10] Named after the offshore pioneer Pieter Schelte (father of Heerema), the design featured a lifting system at its bows for lifting platform topsides up to 48,000 t and a lifting system at its stern for lifting steel jackets up to 25,000 t. The design also included pipelay equipment to handle pipe diameters ranging from 6 - 68 inches at water depths exceeding 4000 m (13,100 ft.).[11]

First equipment orders placed

Allseas placed orders for machinery, including generators and thrusters, in 2007, and for the high-tensile steel for the lifting systems in 2008.[12][13]

After the global financial crisis weakened funding, the company was forced to postpone the building schedule and as a result delayed the awarding of the hull construction contract.[14] Finnish engineering company Deltamarin performed detail engineering in 2009.[15]


Allseas eventually was able to sign the main construction contract in June 2010 with South Korean shipyard Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co Ltd.[16]

Midway through the build, Allseas decided to widen the vessel by 6.75 m in order to increase the clearance between the bows and the legs of large platforms.[17] As a result, the overall width increased from 117 m to 124 m, and the slot width from 52 m to 59 m.

The vessel departed Daewoo in November 2014 and arrived at the Maasvlakte 2, Port of Rotterdam, for completion and commissioning, on January 8, 2015.[18] Pioneering Spirit left Rotterdam on 6 August 2016.[19]

Naming controversy

The vessel was originally named Pieter Schelte after the engineer Pieter Schelte Heerema (1908–1981), the father of Allseas' owner Edward Heerema. The original name caused controversy due to Pieter Schelte Heerema's service in the Waffen-SS during World War II, prior to August 1943. After the war, he was arrested and sentenced to jail for three years, because of links to a Dutch company that conscripted slave labourers for the Nazi war effort, according to the Dutch National Institute for War Documentation.[20] The court later released him after one and a half years. Allseas announced on 6 February 2015 that the vessel's name would be changed in response to the controversy.[21] That announcement was made on a Friday. The new name, Pioneering Spirit, was announced after the weekend.[22]


Pioneering Spirit is the world's largest vessel, in terms of its gross tonnage (403,342 gt), breadth (123.75 m / 406 ft.), and displacement (1,000,000 t).[4][2] The maximum 48,000 t (47,000-long-ton; 53,000-short-ton) topside lift capacity is achieved by operating as a semi-submersible. For removal of topsides, the vessel straddles the intended payload with the slot formed by the twin bows. The slot measures 122 m × 59 m (400 ft × 194 ft) (L×W). After straddling the payload, Pioneering Spirit takes on ballast to lower, and two sets of eight (one set per bow) retractable motion-compensated horizontal lifting beams are slid under the payload. Once the load is secure, the vessel offloads the ballast, rising in the water and partially transferring the load to the beams. In the final stage a fast lift system is used that lifts the payload up to 2.5 m in 15 s.[24]

Two tilting lift beams for the installation or removal of steel jackets, up to 25,000 t (25,000 long tons; 28,000 short tons) in weight, will be located at the vessel's stern.[25] A 5,000 t (4,900 long tons; 5,500 short tons) special purpose crane built by Huisman is scheduled for delivery in the second half of 2018. The tub mounted crane will be available for additional lifts for jacket and topsides installation such as pile handling and bridge installation.[26][27]

When equipped with the Stinger, Pioneering Spirit can be used to lay pipe. Pipe segments are welded together on board the vessel, then are placed on the Stinger, where they roll into the water. The Stinger is curved to guide the pipe to the bottom of the ocean. The Stinger itself weighs 4,200 tonnes (4,600 short tons) and measures 150 metres (490 ft) long and 65 metres (213 ft) wide.[28] It is attached to the Stinger Transition Frame (STF), which provides an interface between the Stinger and the vessel; the STF is installed in the bow slot when attached to the vessel. The Stinger Transition Frame weighs more than 1,600 tonnes (1,800 short tons) by itself.[29]

The vessel is equipped with eight, 20-cylinder (20V32/44CR) MAN 11,200 kW diesel generators providing a total installed power of 95 MW, driving 12 Rolls-Royce azimuth thrusters which provide dynamic positioning (DP3) and for propulsion. The vessel's maximum speed is 14 knots. The accommodation has room for 571 persons in two-berth cabins.[4]

Iron Lady and Bumblebee

Allseas also constructed two barges to assist Pioneering Spirit. If the water depth is not sufficient to allow the vessel to approach the dock, Pioneering Spirit can unload structures to Iron Lady, a 200 m × 57 m (656 ft × 187 ft) (L×W) barge with a shallower draft. Bumblebee was built specifically to store the Stinger and STF when it is not in use.[24]


Pioneering Spirit performed its first commercial lift, removal of Repsol's 13,500 t Yme mobile offshore production unit (MOPU) on 22 August 2016.[30] Located in the Yme field in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea, approximately 100 km west of Stavanger, the MOPU was a jack-up type platform standing on three, 3.5 m diameter steel legs. The decision to remove the platform was made in 2013, and the contract for the removal of the topsides was subsequently awarded to Allseas.

On 28 April 2017 Pioneering Spirit performed the single-lift removal of Shell's 24,200 t Brent Delta topsides.[2][31] Located in the Brent field, approximately 186 km (116 mi) off the northeast coast of Shetland, the iconic platform sat on a three-legged gravity-based structure in 140 m (460 ft) of water. The vessel delivered the topsides to Able UK's Seaton Port yard, Teesside, for disposal.[32]

Pioneering Spirit’s started its first pipelay job, installation of the offshore section of the Turkish Stream pipeline in the Black Sea, in June 2017.[33] Starting from the Russian coast near the town of Anapa, the 930-km, 32-inch diameter twin-pipeline will traverse the Black Sea at depths up to 2200 m and emerge onshore in Turkey's Thrace region.

In 2018 and 2019 the vessel is scheduled to install three platform topsides on Statoil's Johan Sverdrup project in Norwegian waters, in 2018 and 2019.[34] Pioneering Spirit will return to the Brent field to remove the Bravo and Alpha topsides, along with the Alpha steel jacket, in 2019 and 2020.


  1. LR
  2. "Pioneering Spirit".
  3. Pioneering Spirit (Pieter Schelte). Deltamarin. Retrieved 2016-10-22.
  4. Shaw, John (May 2018), "Pioneering Spirit: Profile of the World's Biggest Ship", Ships Monthly: 33–37
  5. "TurkStream project summary (Gazprom)".
  6. "Allseas to build a single lift vessel larger than Pieter Schelte" (PDF).
  7. "Allseas history".
  8. "Catamaran can lift out decks and jackets on single trips".
  9. "Pioneering Spirit Heavy Lift Construction Vessel". Ship Technology. Retrieved 2017-06-08.
  10. "Biggest vessel in the world gets underway" (PDF).
  11. "Pieter Schelte the heavyweight contender for North Sea abandonment program".
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  17. "Mega projects on the horizon for the Pieter Schelte".
  18. "Biggest ship in the world arrives in Rotterdam". Port of Rotterdam.
  19. "Pioneering Spirit departs Rotterdam" (PDF). Allseas.
  20. "Company agrees to change Nazi-linked name of giant ship".
  21. "Allseas to change the name of the vessel Pieter Schelte" (PDF).
  22. "New name for Allseas' single-lift vessel" (PDF).
  23. "'Pioneering Spirit' successfully installs test platform". Ocean Energy Resources. 9 August 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  24. "Pioneering Spirit in Full Swing". Ivormate Magazine. July 2017. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  25. "Jacket Lift System Pioneering Spirit". IV-Consult. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  26. "New Crane Orders for Huisman". Yellow & Finch. August 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  27. Beckman, Jeremy (9 November 2016). "Pioneering Spirit proves strength, stability with record topsides lift". Offshore. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  28. "Stinger Pioneering Spirit". Eiffage Smulders. 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  29. "HLV Rambiz to lift Stinger Transition Frame (STF) at Flushing from the barge Bumblebee to the quay". Scaldis. 11 April 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  30. "Pioneering Spirit completes maiden heavy lift project" (PDF).
  31. "World's largest vessel breaks record".
  32. "Shell Brent Delta Photos and Video".
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  34. "Johan Sverdrup contract to Pioneering Spirit, the world's largest heavy-lift vessel".
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