This is the sci-fi technology the oil industry needs to stay afloat [w/video]

  • Image Credit: Dockwise
There are some cool things about the oil industry. Well, one at least. This is the Dockwise Vanguard heavy marine transport vessel, and it is a marvel. It is 900 feet long, 230 feet wide, and can carry a total of 117,000 metric tons (that's almost 258 million pounds!). That is enough to carry an offshore oil platform, which is impressive in and of itself, but it's how the Vanguard loads its cargo that is particularly nifty.

The Dockwise Vanguard partially (mostly, actually) submerges its deck as far as 50 feet underwater, maneuvers underneath its cargo, then resurfaces with its cargo now on its deck. With no traditional bow or stern, and with the deck open on the sides, it can even transport payloads that extend beyond its own dimensions. For instance, the Vanguard was chosen to carry away the 952-foot-long Costa Concordia cruise ship, which wrecked off the coast of Italy, but it appears that the wreck will now be towed.

Dockwise has other semi-submersible ships in its fleet, but none so massive as the Vanguard. The smaller MV Blue Marlin is notable for bringing home the Navy's USS Cole after it was bombed in 2000 at a port in Yemen, leaving a 40-foot hole in its hull. Last year, the Tern transported 14 barges from Argentina to Columbia.

The Vanguard, though, specializes in moving oil rigs. It, as well as the other semi-submersibles, can also be used as a drydock, lifting ships or structures out of the water to be repaired and maintained on-site. The Vanguard and other Dockwise vessels surely have other possible uses that haven't even been thought up yet, but will be as the need arises. Clients "are all amazed that we've actually built this vessel, that it's actually sailing, and they're already stretching their own minds to think of ways to use it," says Dockwise's Robb Erickson.

And if you find the Vanguard impressive, you should know that another semi-submersible heavy marine transport vessel – one even more massive than the mighty Vanguard – may be in the works. Learn more about the improbable Dockwise Vanguard in the video below, or check out this article at Wired. Dockwise also has a handful of impressive videos on its website.

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