Double Banking: Time-critical project demands unusual discharge operation

MV “Beluga Intonation” and MV “Beluga Constitution”

A rare spectacle in the port of the Ukrainian city Mariupol: Three ships berthed alongside to each other and fixed to the pier.

Two of them are specialised cargo vessels, the third one a river barge. In the middle of the three is MV “Beluga Intonation”, a modern multipurpose heavy-lift carrier which had been lengthened and strengthened only a year ago. With her powerful cranes able to lift weights of up to 700 tons she is discharging the alongside moored MV “Beluga Constitution” to the first of all in all three river barges, a procedure also known as double banking.

The 50 cargo pieces, the second lot of structures and equipment for an offshore oil production platform, are destined for their final place of operation in the Caspian Sea. Four of them weigh 340 tons each and measure 31.5 x 10.1 x 8.7 metres. The cranes of MV “Beluga Intonation” have to lift every single piece from the vessel at portside, swing them between themselves and place them safely on the barge at starboard. “Transferring the cargo from side to side requires precise ballasting and good command of the cranes”, says Beluga Cargo Superintendent Eduard Lopkov. But that is not the only challenge he and his team are facing. He adds: “The space in this harbour is very limited due to its size, shallow drafts and vessel congestion; however, we have to shift the three carriers permanently to the best position for each lift.” Unlike the Beluga vessels the river barges are not self-trimmed. “To avoid any permanent heeling of the barges the heaviest and largest cargo pieces are supposed to be placed exactly on the assigned position, only a minimum tolerance is allowed”, describes the Cargo Superintendent.

Delays in the production of the parts required this unusual constellation involving two Beluga vessels. The Russian inland waterways close for winter from November 10th until May next year. Not meeting that time line meant delaying the whole project as the platform assembly was scheduled to start at the end of this year. The last opportunity for the departure of the barges to safely reach their port of destination was November 1st. MV “Beluga Intonation” did not have time to sail back to the production site in Malaysia after discharging the first lot of the same project in Mariupol as planned. The project team of Beluga had to act fast to find an alternative: MV “Beluga Constitution” being in the region provided suitable tonnage and carried out the transport. However, for discharging the cargo the stronger cranes of MV “Beluga Intonation” were needed.

The challenging heavy-lifts were carried out between October 22nd and 26th, 2008, by October 29th all operations in the port were completed. Marine Warranty Surveyor Noble Denton closely supervised the whole process and issued Certificates of Acceptance for each heavy-lift. Eduard Lopkov concludes: “We are glad having kept the time line and performed to the full satisfaction of the client. Thanks to the great engagement of the crews involved, especially to Master Dimitru Ionut Dinu and Chief Officer Jonathan Suyo from MV ‘Beluga Intonation’ as well as Master Sergey Garshin from MV ‘Beluga Constitution’ who all have done a brilliant job.”

See more about the MV “Beluga Constitution” and MV “Beluga Intonation”