Crowley tugs load mobile spacecraft launch platform onto heavy-lift ship

(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) — Five Crowley tugboats recently worked together to load LP Odyssey, a self-propelled, semi-submersible mobile spacecraft launch platform, onto a heavy-lift ship for Barber Moss Ship Management on behalf of Sea Launch/S7 Space. In less than 48 hours, Crowley tugs Master, Leader, Admiral, Veteran and Scout were successfully mobilized for this unique job, complied with customer and regulatory requirements, and began towing the platform from Los Angeles Harbor to an outside anchorage near Long Beach.

Once at anchorage, the 436-by-220-foot platform, which called the Port of Long Beach home for more than 20 years, was to be floated onto the Xin Guang Hua heavy transport ship for final transport to the eastern coast of Russia, just south of Port of Vladivostok. Unfortunately, weather conditions and resulting sea swells at anchorage delayed the final set down of the platform onto the ship. 

The Crowley tugs continued on standby while authorities and Crowley’s operations team developed an alternative solution. Shortly thereafter, it was determined that the best course of action was to move the platform and heavy-lift ship back inside the harbor break water to a suitable depth of water for the operation. In close coordination with local authorities and the U.S. Coast Guard, Crowley’s operations team formulated a plan for a loading window that would minimize interruptions to other port traffic in the busiest port in the United States.

Two days after the initial attempt, the heavy-lift vessel was staged inside the break water under a Crowley tug escort, while the other four Crowley tugs positioned LP Odyssey over the heavy-lift vessel, and the customer’s operations team de-ballasted and fastened LP Odyssey for transport. 

“We are very proud of our crew, who did an excellent job of exceeding our customer’s expectations despite the challenges of the operation and maintaining the highest level of flexible and safe operations,” said Josh Ellis, vice president of operations and engineering, Crowley’s marine services group. “Thanks to our excellent team, we were able to activate our vessels and position them onsite for this unique job very quickly. Our team, from shore to office, performed seamlessly together in the safe loading of LP Odyssey onto Xin Guang Hua.” 

Crowley’s Master, Leader, Admiral, and Scout are 105-foot, U.S.-flagged Harbor-class tractor tugs. They feature Voith Schneider twin-cycloidal propulsion and a hydrofoil-shaped skeg that provides for greatly improved steering, control and seakeeping ability when the vessel runs at high speeds in the skeg-first direction. In addition, the unique hydrodynamics of the hull result in increased tons of steering and braking force, which are available to assist or control a vessel at higher speeds. 

Crowley tug Veteran is one of two highly maneuverable, Valor-class tugs suitable for ship assist, tanker escort and general towing service. The tugs have Rolls-Royce Aquamaster z-drive units and can generate over 90 tons of direct bollard pull. The deep forward-skeg design of the hull results in excellent directional stability as well as providing additional indirect-pull for assist and escort operations. The Markey DEPC 52 bow winch has full render/recover capability, maximizing ship handling versatility and safety as well as allowing for full wheelhouse control.

By Professional Mariner Staff