The Blue Marlin is big. Very big. In fact, this ginormous steel sea monster is so large that it’s kind of scary. But the Blue Marlin actually serves a very important purpose – and it’s one that requires a vessel of truly epic proportions.
It may not look like it, but, yes, the Blue Marlin is indeed a ship. What’s the difference between a boat and a ship? Well – this will make sense in a moment – but, essentially, as a navy lieutenant apparently once put it, “You can put a boat on a ship, but you can’t put a ship on a boat.”
In any case, the Blue Marlin’s story begins in 2000. The China Ship Building Corporation, Taiwan, built the vessel at the company’s shipyard in Kaohsiung and, within a year, handed her over to her owners, the Norwegian shipping firm Offshore Heavy Transport. That company operated Blue Marlin out of Panama for its first few years of active service.
But in 2003 the Dutch shipping giant Dockwise purchased the mammoth ship and registered her in the southern Caribbean under one of the constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Today, then, the Blue Marlin still flies the blue with yellow stripe and two white stars of the Curaçao flag.
Of course, the sheer size of Blue Marlin is awe-inspiring. In fact, from bow to stern, the ship measures a whopping 736 feet. And, from top to bottom, it’s about 140 feet; that’s almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty, without the plinth. Impressive stuff indeed.
And the reason for Blue Marlin’s epic proportions is pretty mind-blowing too. After all, this gigantic ocean-going vessel has a very specific job. It’s a role that only one of the world’s biggest ships could have any hope of performing safely and with confidence.
Blue Marlin is a heavy-lifting ship made specifically to haul other ships. That’s right, this goliath of the seas is actually capable of transporting vast container ships and even aircraft carriers across the ocean. Of course, in order to manage such huge loads, Blue Marlin relies on her 17,160-horsepower engine.
Indeed, this amazing ship can carry as much as 75,000 tons. But how, you might wonder, does Blue Marlin actively lift these huge structures onto its deck? Well, for this, the ship has a very neat trick.
Incredibly, the gargantuan Blue Marlin submerges partially underwater as the vessel she will carry is floated or maneuvered over her deck. With no crane in the world large enough to lift the kind of loads Blue Marlin transports, the ship is forced to use this method to get her cargo on board.
Not surprisingly, the procedure Blue Marlin must perform to accomplish this is impressive. It begins when the crew of the Blue Marlin flood her ballast tanks to get the ship to descend her deck nearly 50 feet underwater.
In all, the deck area of Blue Marlin spans 120,836 square feet. That’s the equivalent of about two football fields. And with all that space the kind of loads that this epic ship transports are almost as mind-blowing as Blue Marlin itself. From warships to oil rigs, there’s nothing that phases this beast.
Indeed, the U.S. Navy was quick to see the potential of Blue Marlin when it needed a very important mission accomplished. So, after the USS Cole was struck by Al-Qaeda suicide bombers, the Blue Marlin piggy-backed the destroyer all the way from the port of Aden, Yemen, to the United States.
Another military commission was even more impressive. In November 2005 Blue Marlin headed out from Corpus Christi, Texas, with the vast Sea-based X-band Radar on its deck. The final destination was Alaska. However, to get there, the ship traveled not through the Panama Canal, but all the way around the southern tip of South America. And it then stopped to refuel in Hawaii.
Another of Blue Marlin’s epic loads was even featured on TV. Yes, the Discovery Channel’s Extreme Engineering and the History Channel’s Mega Movers documented how the Blue Marlin transferred the Snøhvit gas refinery from where it was built in Cádiz, Spain, to Hammerfest, Norway.
As you may have already guessed, then, a vessel of this size isn’t the speediest sprinter on the seas. In fact, Blue Marlin’s top cruising speed is a mere 17 miles per hour, or 14.5 knots in nautical terms. But going so slowly gives the ship a remarkable fuel advantage.
Slow and steady, Blue Marlin has a maximum fuel range of 29,000 miles. That’s the equivalent of just under three return trips from San Francisco to Tokyo. Of course, she’s got some talented crew to keep her going as well.
In fact, Blue Marlin can house up to 60 crew members at any one time. Some of the senior crew members even have their own cabins, a luxury on cargo vessels. In fact, along with 38 cabins, the ship also hosts several other facilities, including a workout room, a sauna and even a swimming pool.
Amazingly, the ship builders that constructed Blue Marlin created a sister ship as well, and Blue Marlin’s partner in crime is equally as impressive. In fact, Black Marlin is even a few feet longer. Naturally, it’s a classic case of sibling rivalry.
But there’s another that holds the crown. In 2012 Dockwise, the company that owns Blue Marlin, launched Dockwise Vanguard. The introduction of Dockwise Vanguard knocked Blue Marlin down into third place for the title of world’s largest heavy-lift ship.
And though Blue Marlin will always be awe-inspiring, she is a shy comparison to her successor. For Dockwise Vanguard has a deck that is a staggering 207,460 square feet, 70 percent larger than Blue Marlin’s deck space. What’s more, Dockwise is planning even bigger ships and began studying the feasibility of such a plan way back in 2014. Only time will tell what it will come up with next.