MV Blue Marlin (2011). Photo courtesy of ©John Skelson estate


What are ‘heavy-lift’ ships? Simply put, they are huge ships that ship ships (and other gargantuan things).

Heavy lift ships, as their name suggests, are designed to carry anything too large or heavy to be easily transported on a conventional cargo vessel – like port terminal cranes, other ships and massive offshore oil and gas rigs.

Zen Hua 10 loaded with gantry cranes for Port Newark (2014). Photo courtesy of ©John Skelson estate


Semi-submersible heavy lift ships, also known as “flo/flo’s” (for float-on/float-off) have a submerging deck that lowers down into the water allowing floating cargo to be moved into position for loading.

It is quite an alarming sight, the ship eerily looks like it’s sinking – unnaturally level as the main deck disappears below the waterline.

Heavy lift ship MV Blue Marlin (2011). Photo courtesy of ©John Skelson estate


In 2011, our dear John Skelson (we miss you, John… ) photographed Dockwise’s MV Blue Marlin, the largest semi-submersible heavy lift ship at the time, loading up a transport of tugs bound for Africa. Dockwise operates the world’s largest fleet of semi-submersible vessels including the current largest – Dockwise Vanguard, able to carry 110,000 tons of cargo.


Posted by Mai Armstrong for the Working Harbor Committee, all photos by John Skelson with thanks to Phyllis Featherstone and the John Skelson estate/family