A derrick barge is a flat-bottomed boat fitted with a crane and used to support oil derricks, especially during construction. Many types of derrick barges exist, identifiable by the crane and sheer size of the boat. Crane barges must be large enough to handle the required lifting and remain stable while also providing housing for potentially hundreds of crewmen working on the barge and the derrick. Working on an oil derrick often means submitting to harsh weather or water surface conditions, and a derrick barge is often more tolerant of those conditions than other working vessels. The often complex nature of these vessels and the work they do means that operating a derrick barge and the related equipment typically requires specialized training.
Different derrick barges are suited for different roles. Constructing an oil derrick involves tasks such as establishing massive underwater supports, placing platforms and running pipelines, all of which requires heavy lifting. Larger vessels might be used to establish the primary supports of an oil derrick, for instance, while smaller, more maneuverable vessels might be used to carry lighter support beams. Being offshore in often challenging conditions means tasks such as running pipelines can require a specific balance of vessel capacity and size.
The types of tools supported, the size of those tools, and the size of the vessel are some of the most important characteristics of a derrick barge. Crane size and capacity, for instance, will determine which jobs a crane vessel can perform during construction. Many tasks must be completed, often with different weight requirements, before an oil derrick is established. Larger vessels generally have a higher carrying capacity and a greater working force. Many derrick barges are extremely large as a result.
Operating a derrick barge can be a challenge, which is why special training is usually required. Understanding how to maintain the boat’s balance during massive lifting projects is crucial. Each member of a derrick barge crew also is expected to understand safety protocols. Special licenses and permits are often required to operate such vessels, especially when assisting in the construction or maintenance of an oil derrick.
A derrick barge is a type of crane barge. Crane barges have a long history of assisting in carrying across waterways those goods with a range of transportation challenges. The vessels evolved to support the needs of the industrial era, and they became practical for use in offshore drilling.