Heerema took the decision to retire renowned Hermod from its fleet after almost four decades of service to the offshore industry. They selected a Chinese recycling yard, organised the final sea voyage and supervised the recycling process. The whole time a dedicated project manager was in charge of the Hermod recycling operation to ensure that it was done in a responsible manner.

SWZ|Maritime’s July-August issue looks at various aspects of ship recycling, including the different methods of recycling, the market players, the stakeholders, the legal aspects and case studies of significant ships recycled recently. Among the latter is the following article describing how Heerema Marine Contractors had its crane giant Hermod recycled in China.

It was a most unusual sight, even for seasoned ship spotters in Rotterdam Alexia harbour: A crippled, rusty twin-crane behemoth rising above bright coloured box-shaped steel islands. Heerema’s semi-sub crane vessel Hermod was positioned above Dockwise’s flagship carrier Vanguard for its last sea voyage.

Hermod seagoing career

Legend has it that the late P.S. Heerema got a very favourable quote from the Japanese shipyard Mitsui for a novel type of semi-submersible crane vessel with two high-end revolving Gusto cranes. Hence, he decided to have two units built instead of one. This proved to be a masterstroke in the offshore heavy lift market, until then dominated by lone monohulls with single cranes of medium capacity.

The new twin sisters were named Balder and Hermod. By Heerema tradition, all new fleet additions are christened with Nordic god names. Soon after arrival in Europe, the new semis started working on the North Sea, where they could operate in a longer than hitherto achievable construction season thanks to their better motion behaviour in adverse weather than their predecessors and competitors. Their large square decks and tandem lift capability made them eminently suitable for the installation of the largest offshore platforms of the time.

From the Heerema archive: SSCV Hermod (right) with a virgin deck upon arrival in Rotterdam Verolme Botlek harbour, 1978. Sister crane vessel Balder (left) is mobilising for its first job.

Heerema dominated the North Sea construction market for years with their pioneering twins, until larger capacity units relieved the lead. A trend that still continues today.

After some years, both Hermod and Balder got substantial crane capacity upgrades to keep up with the growing competition and market demand. Balder got a midlife modernisation with dynamic positioning (DP) upgrade and a pipelay tower, but Hermod remained a straight crane unit operating on its anchor mooring system for positioning offshore. All its life, it was accompanied by a Heerema tug to handle its anchors and to assist it with making more sailing speed when underway.

Hermod’s first job was to install the Piper Alpha platform in the UK North Sea, an area where it would operate most of its worktime. Its fully dynamic ballast system enabled it to lift and set down heavy packages at sea much faster than only lifting and lowering by its cranes. Intake and discharge by gravity of large quantities of ballast water at the other end of the unit works as a giant lever, and is much faster than lifting operations by paying out or hauling in multi-reeved heavy crane wires.

The first lifting job outside the North Sea was in Brazil, followed by work in the Gulf of Mexico, Southeast Asia and Africa, operating in more than 25 countries in total for all oil majors. Later in life, it undertook large scale decommissioning work, removing multiple heavy platform parts for Conoco Phillips. One of the heaviest lifts performed by the vessel was the 6287-tonne Peregrino topsides in 2010. Smaller lifts were done equally successfully, such as unmanned wellhead platforms off Norway.

Hermod’s portside crane tied back during heavy lifting for the Peregrino topsides offshore Brazil in 2010 (courtesy Jan Berghuis Terschelling).

End of an era

In winter maintenance periods, the Heerema capital assets with their towering cranes are a familiar sight at the Caland Canal moorings in the Port of Rotterdam. These hard-working offshore crane units need a lot of annual maintenance and repairs, and occasional refurbishments. The Hermod maintenance campaigns, assisted by trusted subcontractors, eventually included substantial hull steel renewals.

The rising repair and maintenance costs were factors against retaining Hermod. A shift in portfolio, reduced project prospects and increasing competition were also against it. Hermod was soon to be outpaced by new and more powerful DP crane vessels in Heerema’s own fleet. Every distinguished career has to come to an end. Hence, retirement plans had to be drawn up for the iconic Hermod.

Duty of care: recycling project management

‘Heerema takes very good care of its precious assets,’ says Douwe Renkema, assigned project manager for Hermod’s recycling. Other vessel operators usually have one common technical department, with technical inspectors or superintendents taking care of individual vessels. At Heerema Marine Contractors (HMC) each large vessel has its own asset team, headed by an equipment manager. They take care of the everyday maintenance, logistics and crewing of their unit.

Renkema was supported by engineers from Hermod’s dedicated asset team for the recycling project. Later on, Hermod’s shore team and crew smoothly transited into Sleipnir newbuilding supervision, asset management and crew.

At first, Renkema investigated the feasibility of various recycling options. When asked by SWZ|Maritime for this article to look back on the feasibility stage, the question popped up whether Heerema had ever considered undertaking the recycling of Hermod themselves. After all, HMC is very active and experienced in the offshore decommissioning market. Substantial modifications to HMC’s largest vessels have sometimes been carried out by HMC’s own construction crews. In Flushing, a seaport in the south of the Netherlands, Heerema operates a large fabrication yard.

‘Good question,’ says Renkema, ‘maybe we could have lifted the cranes off by one of our other crane vessels moored in the Caland Canal, but this was not really the preferred option. Ship recycling is not our core business. Therefore, we do not have the permits and waste processing facilities in place for this. Further, offshore decommissioning is somewhat different from ship recycling.’

He adds: ‘For us as main decommissioning contractors, there is always a degree of uncertainty as to what substances you will find inside and underneath an ageing fixed offshore facility. There are substances out there, related to decades of hydrocarbon production, that need special treatment. For ship recycling, there are various competing parties in the worldwide market. We had better options than doing it ourselves.’

Project manager Douwe Renkema checking out Turkish recycling yards (courtesy HMC).

To assist with Hermod’s recycling preparations, Heerema engaged the services of Grieg Green, an experienced independent consultant company headquartered in Norway. The Dutch consultant company Sea2Cradle carried out the IHM (Inventory of Hazardous Materials) including asbestos survey on board the Hermod.

Grieg Green advised Heerema on the selection of a recycling yard and provided on-site recycling inspection services on behalf of Heerema during the entire decommissioning process. Classification society Lloyd’s Register was also contracted for the project. This organisation issued a Statement of Compliance for the IHM, oversaw Hermod’s transport and issued the transport approval for the insurers.

Turkey or China?

Meanwhile, Heerema proceeded with the selection of the candidate country and shipyard for Hermod’s recycling.

‘We did not want Hermod to end up on a beach in South Asia, with its notorious low standards, lack of human rights and associated negative media exposure exposure,’ states Renkema. ‘Based on advice from consultant Grieg Green, brokers and cash buyers, it was soon decided that a choice would be made between Turkey and China as final destination. Only these two countries fitted our social, environmental and commercial criteria and these two options were further investigated and evaluated.’

Safety standards were found better in China, and the recycling method (quayside followed by drydock and wet dock) in China was preferred above the nearshore landing method in Turkey. Fuel consumption and duration of the delivery voyage were also evaluated. The end result of this trade-off between Turkey and China was neutral. Advantage could be taken from the availability of the economical heavy carrier Vanguard for the transport of Hermod from Rotterdam to China.

Eventually China ranked first and the Zhoushan Changhong yard was selected for its best competitive offer. Heerema chose the BIMCO standard recycling contract for the sale to the yard and added some specific clauses. Conditions were included in this contract to prevent trading of Hermod as a crane vessel, but Heerema wanted to rule out any chance of the unit ever to become operational again once sold, as a low-cost competitor to Heerema. Therefore, they took a precaution and made the cranes permanently unusable.

Only Turkey and China fitted Heerema’s social, environmental and commercial criteria

Offshore assets decommissioning and disposal is costly, a fact well known to Heerema as a first class offshore decommissioning contractor. Yet, in the Hermod case, there is a revenue to the owner if the recycling is done in Asian countries, where yards offer a market rate per lightship tonne for a floating asset. Transportation costs for delivery of Hermod, which was too slow under its own power, needed to be offset against the recycling revenue from ferrous and non-ferrous metals. The project costs for preparations and on-site supervision were for the owner’s account as well. All in all, the financial balance was favourable to Heerema.

Heerema did not change ownership, Class or Flag (Panama) of Hermod in its project destination China. The name Hermod, its homeport and operator markings (in big caps on the cranes and hull sides) remained as they had always been there. After yard selection, an export license was obtained from the Dutch authorities. The transport contractor was selected and the voyage preparations could make a start in earnest.

Transportation from Rotterdam to China

Preparations for the last sea voyage were carried out in Heerema’s Leiden office and on board Hermod, moored in the Caland Canal. The crew and Heerema’s logistics department ran a full inventory campaign of Hermod’s loose equipment and spare parts. Based on the need of sister vessel Balder and the other Heerema assets, all re-usable components, parts and consumables were identified, packed and shipped out in containers.

A unique aspect of the preparations was the destruction of the cranes to make them unusable. This was carried out by Heerema’s own crew assisted by subcontractors operating specialised thermal lance equipment. Removal of all crane controls, destruction of vital rotating parts, hooks and sheaves, and spooling of all wires ensured a demolition degree that would prevent economical re-use. At the same time, the cranes were blocked for rotational movements, preparing them for oceangoing transport. A twin crane vessel without any visible wires in the crane booms and without crane cabins was an unusual sight when Hermod departed to the recyclers.

A unique aspect of the recycling preparations was the destruction of the cranes to make them unusable

‘Hermod’s hull was never designed to sit athwartships on cribbing laid out on a host deck and to be subjected to the resulting transport accelerations,’ explains Renkema. ‘Therefore, we did an extensive analysis and engineered local structural reinforcements in the pontoon bottom tanks.’ Some water ballast was taken in for loading Hermod onto Vanguard on even keel.

Meanwhile, seafastenings had been engineered and prefabricated on Vanguard’s vast strong deck, as well as cribbing, bumpers and guide posts. A portside casing was moved from its outrigger position to free up additional space needed for supporting Hermod’s reinforced bottom.

Winches on Vanguard’s casings and accommodation island pulled Hermod across its submerged deck. In concert with four tugs, Hermod was guided into the narrow space between accommodation and casings. When Hermod was correctly positioned, Vanguard deballasted and lifted Hermod out of the water within two hours. As soon as the deck was dry, the mounting and welding of seafastenings started. Part of the huge Hermod bilge keels needed to be cut away for placing so-called strongboxes. Vanguard’s deck seafastenings were then fitted against these strongboxes. Watch a video of the loading operation below.

Semi-submersible heavy transport carriers can transport all kinds of floating and non-floating cargoes, for overseas newbuild delivery voyages or to relocate offshore facilities or dredging equipment. These transports are usually time-critical and have to be fitted into tight mobilisation schedules of cargo operators and their clients.

The Hermod was one of the first offshore units of this size transported by Dockwise (now Boskalis) for recycling. Heavier floating newbuild structures like FPSOs have been carried by the Vanguard since. These have saved time and tugboat fuel, and also increased transport safety and reduced insurance cost.

Hermod ready for sailaway from Rotterdam on Vanguard (courtesy Boskalis).

Because most of the loaded transports are westbound voyages, it is economically attractive for a heavy transport operator to pick up some eastbound return cargo. Companies with end-of-life drilling units awaiting their delivery to a recycling yard in Asia may thus get an attractive deal. Vanguard made an uneventful nine-week sea voyage to Zhoushan in China where Hermod was offloaded and moored at a pier in the Changbai Channel.

Recycling at Chinese yard

Zhoushan Changhong International Ship Recycling Yard in Dinghai District, Zhejiang province, was selected because it had been able to convince the Dutch owner of its recycling capabilities. The yard could demonstrate that Hermod would be recycled in accordance with the Hong Kong Convention and the EU Ship Recycling Regulation.

Heerema had contracted Norwegian based Grieg Green to carry out on-site supervision for the entire recycling process. Grieg Green’s on-site senior supervisor reported to Heerema’s Leiden office with weekly updates on the dismantling process.

Hermod was laid up at the yard pier and remained there for some extended period of time as the yard had to seek government permission to recycle because of reduced recycling quota. After obtaining permission, the yard started the recycling of Hermod following the ship specific Ship Recycling Plan (SRP).

Amongst the first activities were small crane lifts alongside the pier to pull out various loose items and removal of hazardous and flammable materials (pre-cleaning) to allow safe hot cutting of the steel structure at a next stage. During Hermod’s stripping campaign, all of the vessel’s interiors, insulation materials, fittings, etc. and 6.5 tonnes of hazardous materials including asbestos containing materials (ACM) were removed. What remained was practically a bare steel hull.

Start of recycling of Hermod’s cranes in Zhoushan Changhong International dry dock (courtesy Grieg Green).

Advantage was taken of the high capacity gantry crane in the yard’s dry dock. Hermod’s draught (10 metres) exceeded the maximum water depth in the local wet dock (8 metres). It was therefore most efficient and most safe to offload the accommodation block, the two big cranes and other large structures from the main deck while in dry dock. This reduced its weight and brought it to a floating draught of less than 8 metres.

Hermod’s cranes were offloaded in big parts: Crane booms, boom rests, counterweights, A-frames, slewing platforms and crane tubs. The accommodation deckhouse was removed in one piece. ‘For the lifting of heavy crane parts and the deckhouse, we sent our own Heerema inspectors,’ says Renkema. ‘This is where our expertise came in.’

Hermod leaving drydock midway recycling. Cranes, deckhouse and forward parts of deckbox have been offloaded (courtesy Grieg Green).

After the lightering operation, Hermod was transferred to a wet dock for further dismantling. The deckbox structure was cut off in sections. Heavier components from machinery spaces and mooring winch rooms were lifted out by shoreside and floating cranes.

The original swimming pool was maintained intact for as long as possible

Interestingly, the original swimming pool was maintained intact for as long as possible on deck, to serve as fire water storage tank during recycling. What followed next was the dismantling of the six hull columns and the two lower pontoons.

Final stage of Hermod hull dismantling in wet dock by floating crane: Two bracings are still connecting lower stubs of columns on pontoons (courtesy Grieg Green).

Finally, the last transverse bracings connecting the twin pontoons were removed and the lower pontoon bottoms were processed in a floating dry dock. In November 2018, a year after its arrival, Hermod’s recycling was completed. Under Grieg Green’s supervision, all hazardous materials as per IHM had been identified, removed and properly disposed of. No accidents had occurred throughout the project.


The Hermod recycling project was one of the largest in terms of light displacement tonnage (LDT). Hermod weighed 55,000 tonnes, only surpassed by the world’s largest ship scrapped, the ultra large crude oil carrier Seawise Giant. This 83,000-tonne behemoth arrived at the shores of Alang in 2010 under the name Mont.

Hermod weighed more than the very large ore carrier Berge Stahl, for some decades the flagship for iron ore imports to Rotterdam. This retired bulker was laid up in Asia, and its 41,500 tonnes of well-travelled steel have hit the shores of Gadani, Pakistan, under the name Geostahl. The wrecked cruise ship Costa Concordia was eventually recycled in Genoa. Its recycled weight amounted to 59,000 tonnes. That was substantially more than its original lightship weight because some 20,500 tonnes of parbuckling related steel structures and 8500 tonnes of oily fluids had to be removed as well.

Further recycling projects

Any upcoming recycling project in Heerema’s fleet will benefit from the experience gathered from the recycling of Hermod. This includes complying with recycling legislation, selling a vessel to a recycling yard, transporting a vessel under Class, and supervising the recycling work to ensure safe and environmentally sound ship recycling.

Heerema has become very familiar with European offshore recycling yards, bringing ashore many decommissioned offshore structures with its big crane vessels and cargo barges. One such barge, the H-114, was taken for recycling to the M.A.R.S. yard in Denmark. This yard was chosen because it operates to European standards. Its location required only a few days towage (weather restricted as the barge was out of Class) from Rotterdam, where the ageing H-114 had spent its last years as a spacer barge for mooring Heerema’s large crane vessels in the Caland Canal.

How about the future recycling of the Balder, the orphaned Hermod’s twin sister? Renkema keeps the answer to this question off a bit. ‘Time will tell,’ he says. ‘Surely, there is also an end to the Balder era, but at present, it is still doing a very good job in serving our clients in the offshore industry. With 44 years in service, it is the most experienced vessel in our fleet. And its past upgrades and renovations, including its conversion to DP deepwater construction vessel are still paying off.’

One thing is for certain: Future recycling of Heerema’s major floating assets will come under the purview of HMC’s embraced sustainability principles and its recently adopted carbon neutral strategy. The IHM has already been prepared by Grieg Green as Balder frequently enters European ports.

Picture (top): Hermod rising above submerged Vanguard (courtesy Heerema Marine Contractors).

This article was written by SWZ guest editor ir Martijn van Wijngaarden. He is an independent marine consultant and has been project team member for major offshore conversions and newbuildings at Allseas and Heerema.

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Also read: Ship design in detail: Heerema’s crane vessel Sleipnir