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Spectacular BOKA Vanguard operation

In summer 2019 the BOKA Vanguard made global headlines serving as a floating dry dock for the Carnival Vista, a gigantic cruise vessel. Jilles van de Peppel was project engineer on the team that completed the preparations for the operation in just three weeks. ‘We had never loaded an Imax cinema, restaurants, shops, swimming pools, slides, a miniature golf course and a crew of 250 in a single movement.’

With 1,968 cabins and room for about four thousand passengers, the Carnival Vista is one of the world’s largest cruise vessels. It is 324 meters long and it weighs 67,000 tons. It developed problems in the propulsion system in early June 2019 so that it could only sail at half power. The company was forced to cancel a number of cruises to have repairs done but the only suitable dry dock in the Caribbean had just been shut down. ‘Boskalis had already announced a few years before that it could transport another cruise vessel, the Costa Concordia. That was one of the reasons Carnival came to us in mid-June to ask if the Vanguard could serve as a floating dry dock,’ says Jilles.

Within a week

The contract was signed five days later. The client said the vessel had to be ready to go back into service on 27 July. During the two-week mobilization voyage from England to the Bahamas, Jilles and his colleagues prepared the outfitting of the Vanguard, which included moving a casing and installing the cribbing and the connections for cooling water. ‘The work began immediately upon arrival and the loading operation began within a week,’ says Jilles. ‘To safeguard stability, a trim of seven meters between the bows and the rear of the Vanguard was maintained during the loading and unloading operation.’

We had never loaded an Imax cinema, restaurants, shops, swimming pools, slides, a miniature golf course and a crew of 250 in a single movement.

A genuine precision job

The loading operation was a genuine precision job. Once the Vanguard had been submerged to the right depth, the Vista was positioned above the Vanguard under its own power with assistance from four tugs, including our own Sovereign. ‘The cruise vessel is almost 50 meters longer than the Vanguard so it stuck out slightly on either side. That simplified the work which was done at the stern from a working vessel. Before the repairs started, we connected our cooling water supply and conducted an evacuation exercise for the crew of about 250 who stayed on board. Carnival was kind enough to invite us on board the Vista for a lunch and a guided tour of this very special load,’ he says.

Excellent opportunity

‘One of the challenges was that the project took place during the hurricane season. As a result, we had to be prepared for a possible interruption but, fortunately, the weather conditions remained excellent. The repairs were completed in six days. An efficient unloading operation brought a smooth project to an end: it took a week less than the shipping company had anticipated. They were even able to plan an extra last-minute cruise and recoup some of the costs,’ says Jilles. ‘This was an excellent opportunity for Boskalis to
show that we can handle this kind of work.