Dockwise Tern: What that unusual orange ship is here to do, and how long it’s staying

(UPDATED 4:05 PM with drydock loaded)

(Photo by Don Brubeck – just an illusion, the Tern is NOT lifting Celebrity Infinity!)

12:36 PM: Though it’s been in Elliott Bay for several days, the heavy-transport ship Tern – that orange ship that appears to be missing its middle – is drawing increasing attention, at least in the WSB inbox, in just the past 24 hours or so. We’ve been working to find out more about its visit before publishing something, and now we have enough to share.

(WSB photo from Don Armeni Boat Ramp on Wednesday)

It’s owned by Dockwise, which describes itself online as “the global market leader in heavy marine transport with over 30 years’ experience.” The Tern’s fact sheet is here; it was built in Norway in 1982 and is 180 meters long.

Now, the part we couldn’t find online: Thanks to Peter McGraw at the Port of Seattle for helping us track down what it’s here for, He pointed us to Vigor Shipyards on Harbor Island, where senior vice president for public affairs Jill Mackie tells WSB, “The vessel is here to transport a no-longer-usable Vigor dry dock away from our site. The dry dock, built by Todd for use on this shipyard in 1968, will be recycled. The vessel, loaded with the dry dock is scheduled to depart over the coming weekend. Moving the dry dock frees up pier space for more productive use.”


Mackie says the drydock will be taken to Mexico.

4:05 PM: The drydock is now aboard the Tern. We got this view while riding the Water Taxi back from downtown a short time ago:


17 Replies to "Dockwise Tern: What that unusual orange ship is here to do, and how long it's staying"

  • B May 19, 2016 (1:00 pm)

    I believe this is the kind of ship that carries things like oil platforms – if so it’s really neat, they actually “sink” the ship a little to let the water carry off the platform when deploying. 

    • WSB May 19, 2016 (1:14 pm)

      I forgot to include that, will add. Yes – a ship like this brought the Polar Pioneer to Port Angeles last year, before it was floated off and towed to Terminal 5.

  • miws May 19, 2016 (2:36 pm)

    I just recently ran across pics and info on this type of ship on a transportation-related Facebook page I belong to.

    Hadn’t recalled being aware of them before.


  • D. Radke-Bogen May 19, 2016 (2:51 pm)

    Well, the freighter is black but it’s an excuse for a good song.



  • 22blades May 19, 2016 (5:06 pm)

    If you remember the X-Band Radar that was in for repairs at Vigor, here it is on the Tern’s “deck”;

    • David Amble May 20, 2016 (9:55 am)

      Not the same ship, but close.

  • JayDee May 19, 2016 (5:09 pm)

    My fave is when they brought in the large cranes to Harbor Island on two of these.  Looked like it would capsize in a light breeze. But it didn’t.  Thanks for the confirmation of the story.

  • 22blades May 19, 2016 (5:12 pm)

    Oops. Similar, but wrong ship… This one’s the Blue Marlin.

    • WSB May 19, 2016 (5:40 pm)

      And I finally looked it up .. the Blue Marlin brought in the Polar Pioneer, the Dockwise Vanguard then took it back across the Pacific from Port Angeles in December.

  • KJ May 19, 2016 (5:45 pm)

    Fascinating! Thanks for researching this!

  • sc May 19, 2016 (6:23 pm)

    Thank you WSB.

    I saw this on my way north to see my mom in Greenwood.  I wasn’t sure what I was looking at!   

    Thanks for the answer!

  • TheKing May 19, 2016 (6:56 pm)

    Very cool. Flatbed of the ocean. 

  • CRichter May 20, 2016 (5:54 am)

    I saw this from the bridge , had to look twice , kind of an illusion , thought to myself ” I bet the blog will have info on this” 

    Thanks for all you do !!

  • Lonnie May 20, 2016 (12:06 pm)

      The section of drydock seen on the carrier vessel is actually one half of the original drydock #4.  Some time ago before Todd Shipyard sold to Vigor,  drydock #4  was cut in half .  One half section was laid up and placed out of service.  The other half  section continued to be used as a smaller drydock until approximately two years ago when it to was also condemned.  For some time the new Washington State Ferries were lifted on this drydock until it was condemned.   Vigor has been looking for some time for buyers to purchase the drydock for scrap however one of the drawbacks was the amount of hazardous waste involved.  I am really curious whether both sections are destined for the same demise and who and where the recycling will occur.

    • Pete May 27, 2016 (8:01 pm)

      The Tern and cargo are now in Ensenada.

  • Tom r May 26, 2016 (5:39 pm)

    I am looking at the Tern in front of my house here in Ensenada Mexico. Thanks for telling me where the dry dock came from. There is a small ship breaking operation here, but I’ve not seen anything of this size before. Perhaps it wil go into re-use, condemned there is not necessarily condemned here. 7 days from Seattle to Ensenada, down current, probably a nice ride.

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