Aasta Hansteen sailed 640 marathons home to Norway.

A voyage halfway round the world

Two-thirds the height of the Eiffel tower—and weighing in at 46,000 tonnes. How do you transport a gigantic 200-metre-long spar platform that size—not just a few kilometres, but halfway around the world? 

In a few months, the giant Aasta Hansteen spar platform will afloat in the ocean, anchored to the seabed around 300 km offshore, northwest of Sandnessjøen in Nordland. But how it will get there is the story of a voyage with a difference. Norway’s first spar platform, and the world’s largest, had to travel around the coast of Africa to reach her destination.

Taking on this unusual challenge was the world's largest heavy transport vessel, Dockwise Vanguard. 275 metres long and 79 metres wide, the ship is the length of three football pitches, and more than a football pitch in width. When it submerges to lift large installations, the semi-submersible looks more like a block of flats jutting out of the sea than a ship. It is designed to lift and carry loads equivalent to 12 Eiffel Towers at a time.   

In April, Aasta Hansteen’s gigantic substructure was ready for the long voyage from the shipyard in South Korea. Planning, accurate assessments and calculations were necessary to get the spar platform out into the water and om board the Dockwise Vanguard, ready for departure. 

See the sailaway from Korea

See an animation of the mating process

Enormous dimensions

Aasta Hansteen’s floating spar base alone weighs 46,000 tonnes and is 200 metres tall, with a diameter of 50 metres. By comparison, Oslo Plaza Hotel is 117 metres tall, 83 metres shorter than Aasta’s jacket.  

For two months, the platform hull crossed several oceans on its journey to Norway. From South Korea, the voyage went south to India, and continued south around the Cape of Africa. At that point it was barely halfway to its first stop: Høylandsbygd in the county of Sunnhordland. The ultimate destination is the Norwegian Sea at the northern edge of Europe. The trip was 14,500 nautical miles, equivalent to nearly 26,900 km, or more than 640 marathons—a distance that amounts to more than half of the Earth’s circumference. 


Stages in the process of upending the giant floating spar hull after its voyage from Korea Photo: Espen Rønnevik

Photo: Espen Rønnevik

Photo: Espen Rønnevik

Photo: Eva Sleire

Stages in the process of upending the giant floating spar hull after its voyage from Korea Photo: Espen Rønnevik

Photo: Espen Rønnevik

Photo: Espen Rønnevik

Photo: Eva Sleire

Here, the hull was floated off the transport vessel and towed into Klosterfjord in the country of Hordaland, where it was upended in the sea before being anchored inposition to await the arrival of the topsides. The platform deck followed, making the trip aboard the Dockwise White Marlin this autumn and arriving at the end of November. Soon the platform deck will be transferred to two other vessels in order to be floated over and connected to the hull at Stord. 

Tension before the transfer

Skidding out an entire platform deck of this size onboard a ship requires great skill, and there were many anxious faces to be seen at the yard as the operation took place. It has been an unusually large project for the yard and Statoil.

When everything has been joined together and the platform is in place in the Norwegian Sea, production will start in 2018.

The spar platform Aasta Hansteen is the first of its kind on the Norwegian continental shelf, and is the largest of its kind in the world. With a spar platform, gas can be extracted in challenging conditions. The discovery lies far from shore, well beyond the reaches of established infrastructure, and the deep sea and rough weather conditions make it particularly challenging to extract the resources.

Aasta Hansteen is one of the largest and most complex industrial projects ever. A total of 480 km of pipelines have been laid from the platform, a distance equal to the distance between Oslo and Bergen. With the Polarled pipeline, Norwegian gas infrastructure has crossed the Arctic Circle for the first time.

Production starts in 2018, and the gas will be sent to Nyhamna before being exported to Europe.

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