January 23 - The launch of GPO Grace, GPO Heavylift's first 65,000-dwt semi-submersible newbuilding, in December last year at China Shipbuilding Corp's (CSBC) Kaohsiung shipyard in Taiwan was a major turn of events for the heavy lift sector of the shippin

The 65,000 dwt GPO Grace will enter service in April and will eventually be joined by three identical vessels.

It is certainly an interesting time to be launching vessels into this niche sector, where demand is lacklustre and charter rates are poor.

But GPO Heavylift, like its fellow newcomer ZPMC Red Box Energy Services, is winning contracts whilst facing competition from companies that already have operational assets, whereas its ships are still to enter service.

Headquartered in Singapore and operational in Oslo, the brainchild of GPO Heavylift is Singapore businessman Kenny Cai, who has more than 20 years' experience in the offshore oil and gas sector.

When he launched the company he recruited Dagfinn Thorsen, a Norwegian who has more than 30 years of experience in the business, from Offshore Heavy Transport to be chief executive. Thorsen arrived with an impressive pedigree having spent nearly 20 years at OHT, having also worked for the likes of Dockwise, SeaTeam Heavylift, Neptun Heavy Lift and Dyvi Heavy Lift.

GPO Heavylift's four new ships include built-in propulsion redundancy with four generators, four main engines and two shafts. All four feature full dynamic positioning two (DP2) capability and their cargo decks have been strengthened to carry loads of 30 tons per sq m (27.2 tonnes per sq m). Their main decks can be submerged to a depth of 15 m.