Damen Offshore used a heavy lift vessel from specialist German company SAL to move a couple of its new build fast crew supplier vessels from Vietnam to Mexico. John Slijkoord, Damen service co-ordinator, reports on the loading of the vessels in Vietnam and the typical issues heavy lifters are confronted with in their daily work
Damen’s client, Naviera Integral, asked us to investigate the transport possibilities for a pair of type 5009 fast crew supplier (FCS) vessels as deck cargo from Haiphong, Vietnam to Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico. After scrutinising the heavy lift market it was agreed that German heavy lift carrier SAL would do the job. The FCS boats have the Damen Sea Axe bow design and require specific attention to their loading.
The usual loading location near Haiphong in Vietnam for this kind of cargo is the anchorage of Halong Bay. In addition to beautiful scenery, it is a natural sheltered area and is included on the UNESCO world heritage list. The practical benefit is that heavy lift vessels are protected from influences from the sea, like swell.
Loading operations at Halong Bay are time-consuming and for this reason site managers of both our partner yards (189 and Song Cam) requested to have the preparations and the loading itself co-ordinated on the spot by the deliveries department of Damen Services.
As the lucky one to attend this loading, although both yards know the drill, I passed on my “wish-list” to them well in advance, just to make sure that all preparations would be made. An extra complexity confronting us was that the SAL vessel Annegret arrived only a few days prior to the Vietnamese New Year (‘Tet’, or to be precise ‘Tết Nguyên Đán’). Knowing that most Vietnamese only have one week of holiday a year, during this period, the stress of this operation is easily imagined.
As usual in shipping, a delay pushed Annegret’s initial 4 February arrival date back to the morning of the 8th. On this updated schedule 7 February saw both of the FCS boats towed from the yards in Haiphong to Halong. They were then near the anchorage for berthing alongside the Annegret at short notice. A marine warranty surveyor was appointed to monitor and survey the loading and lashing operations. Together with the surveyor, Mr Amin, I moved to Halong to perform a first inspection on the vessels the same afternoon.
On Friday 8 February at 04.00 hours we arrived at Halong berth where we were picked up by the Song Cam 5, a Damen multi-cat-like workboat being used as a water-taxi, floating ‘restaurant’ and ‘flotel’ or ‘boatel’ for the Vietnamese workers assisting with this loading operation.
We arrived alongside the heavy lift vessel at 06.30 hrs and were welcomed by the captain who was busy preparing his vessel for loading. A toolbox meeting was held and the loading operation and planning was discussed in detail. Unfortunately, one of the cranes had a technical malfunction and had to be repaired first, which was handled in a straightforward manner by the crew. By the time it came back in operational state, however, it was no longer feasible to commence loading of the first FCS as the preparations, for example, rigging of the cranes, lowering the stability pontoon and positioning cradles on deck usually takes close to eight hours.
We decided to postpone loading to the next morning and returned with our private taxi boat to Halong again early in the evening. By the time we touched ground our client’s representative, Julio Montelongo also arrived in Halong after an exhausting flight from Mexico.
The next day, 9 February, the three of us arrived on board the Annegret at 06.00 hours. At that time everything was already in position by her crew. Cranes one and two were rigged and slings were already moving from above deck to the water in front of and behind the first FCS 5009 to be lifted (the Don Julio M). Divers were in place to check the correct positions of the belly sling and, at 07.00 hours, lifting commenced.
As often happens in this type of operation, however, you run into unforeseen, un-engineered situations. We had to abort lifting shortly after starting, with the FCS still in the water, due to the fore traverse not being even. As we had to change that situation the vessel was lowered again. The fore sling was replaced by divers and at 09.00 hours the second attempt commenced successfully.
At noon Don Julio M was gently positioned in its cradles on its temporary position. After lunch the rigging was shifted from cranes one and two to two and three and the Don Julio M was lifted out of the cradles from its temporary position and positioned into the cradles at its final position on the aft or poop deck with about 3 metres of overhang. We double-checked the positions of the FCS in cradles and at 19.00 hours we called it a day and went back ashore.
The captain promised to make some basic temporary safety lashing that same night, using wood and rubber to avoid direct contact between steel lashing and the FCS.
We returned to the Annegret around 09.00 hours on 10 February. Cranes one and two were rigged and the slings were already moving from above deck to the water in front of and behind the second FCS 5009 to be lifted.
At 16.00 hours Don Alejandro was gently positioned into cradles on its final position. Lashing was ongoing on the Don Julio M and continued until 22.00 hours. We made sure our instructions were properly understood by the crew, how and where (not) to lash and we would return the next day to monitor and inspect the same.
On Monday 11 February we returned for the last time to the Annegret to inspect the lashings, which were to the satisfaction of our surveyor, whereupon he issued his certificate of approval. Since the last four days had been quite intensive and stressful for the crew, the captain decided to order the pilot for the next morning, Tuesday 12 February and the Annegret departed at 06.30 hours.
So far, so good and the project continues. SAL was loading cargo in the next port, Masan, in South Korea, where the cargo had to be loaded below deck, in the area where the two aft cradles of the Don Alejandro were positioned. It was thought that the Don Alejandro would have to be discharged into water again and reloaded and lashed again after the loading in Masan. The same marine warranty surveyor was appointed to monitor and survey this discharge and loading and lashing operation and our client and myself decided to be there as well.
I would like to thank the Vietnamese colleagues of the Song Cam and 189 shipyards who, in spite of the Tet holiday, contributed to this operation.