LONDON, Aug 9 (Reuters) - A strange-looking vessel inspired by the exotic sucker fish is due to leave Norway for Brazil's giant offshore oilfields this week on a mission to revolutionise deep sea oil loading methods.
At 47 metres tall, 28 metres long and with an 11 metre keel, HiLoad DP unit No. 1 looks top-heavy and out of place in the water, more like a partly submerged container-port crane than a ship of any type - or a fish for that matter.
But attached to its mother ship, the oil tanker Navion Anglia, the vessel is preparing to head anyway from the Norwegian port of Kirstiansund in southern Norway to the ocean off Rio de Janeiro on a debut 10-year commercial trial contract for Brazilian state oil company Petrobras.
Its deployment in the Campos and Espirito Santo pre-salt basins reflects the burgeoning scale and increasing remoteness of offshore projects that supply about one third of the world's crude oil, and the challenges of developing such resources economically.
The Norwegian-built craft is designed to load oil from deep sea Floating Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessels directly onto a standard tanker with no extra equipment. ()
It offers a cost-saving alternative to specialist shuttle tankers with their own dynamic positioning (DP) systems, and to the use of moored loading buoys with their associated tug boats.
There are already about 150 FPSOs - often simply converted tankers but also increasingly sophisticated new-built vessels - working offshore, as oil companies go so deep in the search for oil where traditional platforms and pipelines are impractical.
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