On the boat, or off?

Taken from the bridge wing of Ocean Clipper showing the drill ship being towed into position between the aft towers of the submerged barge. Then the mooring crews hooked her up to the winches on the barge and she was winched ahead over the submerged cribbing engineered to take her hull shape. Then the barge surfaced with Ocean Clipper secure aboard.

When photographing boats for Professional Mariner, the question is always should I be on the boat getting shots of mariners in action, or off the boat getting shots of the boat.


I was recently touring the port of Rio de Janeiro with the president of the Rio Pilots, Marco Heggendorn. We came upon a bizarre cluster of marine activity bunched together in the center of the harbor: submarines, tugs, mooring launches, a huge drill ship and a semi-submersible barge or dry dock. There were a number of boats standing off looking on, one of them with a video crew focused on the drill ship and barge. A helicopter circled overhead.


It became apparent that the action was a Diamond Offshore drill ship, Ocean Clipper, being nudged into position over the submerged barge, Gavea Lifter, owned by Fairmount Marine, the Netherlands.


The concern with maneuvering Ocean Clipper in line with the center of the submerged barge to ensure that she lines up with the cribbing below water.

Left: 70-year old Rio Pilot, Captain Durvalino de Souza.

Middle: Fairmont Marine Superintendent Marine Operations, Rene¢ van der Meulen, from the Netherlands. speaking into  three radios, one in Portuguese, one in English and one in Dutch.
Right: Ocean Clipper Captain, David Fazioli, from Texas.

Even though the 644-foot Gavea Lifter is the largest semi-submersible barge in the world, It was a tight fit slipping the 527-foot drill ship between the stern towers and tight up behind the bow superstructure.


Before I had time to choose between being on or off the boat I found myself climbing the ladder up the side of Ocean Clipper. Once aboard I was left no option for getting off until the maneuver was finished.


The details of this on board will appear in the next issue of Professional Mariner as part of a story on the Rio Pilots. However, here are a few photos showing the operation and the concentration of the three people most responsible for the success of the maneuver. They are under tremendous pressure on the bridge instructing their various crews in Portuguese, English and Dutch. This is the first time that any of them can think of that this kind of maneuver had been done on this size of ship. Gavea Lifter’s usual task was to accommodate oil rigs. The idea was to bring the dry dock to the rig, or ship, rather than those vessels traveling thousands of miles to the nearest dry docking facilities, in this cast the Gulf Coast. 

Fourtunately I was able to go out the pilot boat the next morning and get a few shots of Ocean Clipper nested in her cribbing on Gavea Lifter at the Maua Jurong Shipyard.





By Professional Mariner Staff