Liftboat sinks after ship carrying it loses power and rolls during North Atlantic storm

A Louisiana-built liftboat fell off a semi-submersible transporter and sank in the Atlantic Ocean during a storm, the vessels’ owners said.

The jack-up liftboat KS Titan I was lost in the middle of the North Atlantic after the semi-submersible HeavyLift Ancora had engine trouble and was not able to navigate through the storm. The loss of power caused the ship to roll, and the liftboat shifted, capsized and sank.

This liftboat being built at Semco Inc. in Lafitte, La., is identical to the 176-foot vessel that sank after falling off a heavy-lift ship. (Larry Pearson photo)

The vessel had been loaded out in Pascagoula, Miss., and was en route to Liverpool, England. Owners of the liftboat were KS Energy Services and Ezra Holdings, both of Singapore. The vessel was fully insured.

Ancora “encountered main engine problems in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean," Ezra Holdings said in a statement. “As a consequence of the vessel’s rolling and tilting motion, the Titan I shifted to portside, capsized and was lost at sea."

Ocean HeavyLift ASA, the Norwegian company that owns the 732-foot Ancora, confirmed the account in a separate statement. No one was injured in the incident, which happened during the night of Oct. 26-27, the companies said.

The liftboat was headed to the North Sea to fulfill an 817-day contract for installation and maintenance work on wind turbines off Denmark and the U.K.

Owners of the heavy-lift vessel would make no comment on precisely why the vessel shifted and fell off the ship. The rigging plan designed to hold the boat in place did not anticipate the violent forces present when the engines on the heavy-lift vessel failed.

The liftboat was built by Semco LLC, of Lafitte, La. The company also built sister ship KS Titan II, which is still at the Semco shipyard and may be used to fulfill the terms of the wind turbine contract.

“We have built three of the Titan class lift boats and nine liftboats of similar design," said Allen Moore, general manager of Semco.

The Titan class is one of the largest classes of liftboats ever built. The hull of each of the vessels is 176 feet by 113 feet with 13-foot hull depth. The legs are 280 feet long, enabling them to work in 200 feet of water depth.

“Through our sister company, SeaTrax of Houston, a unique feature of these boats is that the leg jack towers also serve as the crane support post, giving a much cleaner and open deck area for the vessel size," Moore added.

The Marshall Islands-flagged Ancora had only minor damage on its deck, and the unspecified engine problem was quickly repaired, Ocean HeavyLift said.

On Nov. 20, Oslo-based Ocean HeavyLift said Ancora had been arrested in the United States after the Titan I connections filed a $60 million claim. The vessel was arrested in Pascagoula.

“OHL fully rejects the claim and will rely upon the provisions in the transport contract defining that OHL carries no risk whatsoever relating to its cargo," the company said.

Larry Pearson

By Professional Mariner Staff