J. M. Baxi & Co. was associated with a specialized handling operations of a semisubmersible ship as a recent owner’s protecting agent. The company provided support services while undertaking a complex operation to load four floating units, comprising two floating cranes, one hopper barge and one tugboat onto a semi-submersible vessel at Bedi Anchorage, Jamnagar, in Gujarat.

A semi-submersible heavy-lift ship has a long and low well deck between the forecastle deck forward and the machinery space aft. It has water ballast tanks, which can be filled with water to lower the well deck below sea level. Oil platforms, smaller craft and other floating units can then be positioned over the submerged well deck. Once these floating units are in position, the ballast water is then gradually pumped out and the semi-submersible vessel rises. The floating units are then secured to the well deck for the sea voyage to the destination port. Generally, such floating units are moved under a sale and purchase contract, as they are unable to move any distance under their own propulsion. Oil platforms are moved in this manner if they need to be repositioned or need to undergo maintenance at a predesignated yard. Drilling rigs are also moved from their construction site to the drilling site. This type of operation is termed as float-on/ float-off. These specialised semisubmersible vessels reduce transit times and costs compared to towing.

The semi-submersible MV Hawk arrived at Bedi Anchorage on 9 January 2020. Since the operation was very specialised, the entire loading process was done under the supervision of the loading master Mr Valentin Gudim while the vessel was under the command of Capt. Albert.

The challenges faced during the stay of the semi-submersible were mainly related to the weather. As per the company’s standard operating procedure for safe handling, all such operations require sufficient depth so that the semi-submersible can be submerged to the required level. The weather has to be very fair with practically no swell. According to the port operations manual, the wind speed and sea current must not exceed 15.0 knots and 1.0 knots, respectively. If the wind speed or sea currents are too high, the operation has to be aborted.

The port at Bedi, unfortunately, is susceptible to winds of more than 20 knots at noon. Thus, the entire load operation was completed in stages during daylight for safety reasons.

Port officers from the Gujarat Maritime Board were present throughout the stay of the vessel to ensure safe and accident-free operation. They chaired various meetings and briefings on board, which were organised prior to the commencement of any critical operations.

The loading of the floating units was completed on 25 January 2020. MV Hawk departed from Bedi Anchorage for Sierra Leone on 29 January 2020 after securing the four floating units on deck.