Offshore Oil and Gas Vessels

By Ali Ismail,

We are 3D modeling a complete collection of all types of vessels used in the offshore oil and gas industry, so we got to know all about these ships design, function, equipment on-board and categories you'll typically find.

You can find some of the completed 3D vessels in our Turbosquid page Here.

The offshore oil and gas industry, really requires an immense amount of technology to find and extract energy deposits beneath the surface of the oceans. There is a large number of vessel types and configurations used in this process.

Often times as well, one ship can be customized or re-purposed to serve a different function. More confusingly, some ships are hybrids between 2 or more types of ships. It really depends on what the operator wants to accomplish. But generally speaking, understanding some of the basic types can help you figure out what types of ships and functions you will encounter in the industry.

List of ship categories as we see them, 

1-Tugboats (Towboats)

These are used quite often in handling of big ships, maneuvering and docking them.

Contrary to the name "tugboat" these do actually tug and tow, as in push and pull. Thats why they usually have a winch on-board and this inflatable rubber thing all around. (The word towboat is now used more often for river boats, pusher boats)

They need a special rounded hull design and powerful engines to be able to push and pull those huge ships. And preferably a bridge design which enables viewing from all directions.

The propellers are usually of rotatable azimuth design or are voith schneider propellers to enable quick maneuvers.

2-Platform Supply Vessels (PSV)

A small container ship, platform supply vessels transport supplies, equipment and personnel to and from offshore rigs and vessels. The pickup truck of the ocean!

They fall under the category of offshore support vessels (OSV)

Usually a flat bed where containers and supplies can be stored. These ships can be modified to perform further tasks such as installing a gangway to transport crew easily.

3-Survey Vessels/Seismic Vessels (SV)

We can't leave this one to the end of the list! and no, it's not cut in half. this is one strange looking ship but it should be very comfortable to be on-board since this design makes it a lot more stable so that the equipment on-board does not get affected by the vibration or the turbulence of the waves.

This very same design can be used by military intelligence. The hull design is Ramform.

Note: survey vessels don't always have to look like this, they can be of a conventional design and look something similar to a PSV, you only need to have survey equipment on board.


Product Tanker

Crude, product, chemical, LNPG tankers.

The ships used to transport oil, gas in crude and refined form and chemical products to and from rigs and production facilities.

They vary in size of course and can be really huge like this one.

5-Offshore Subsea Construction Vessel (OSCV) / ROV Support Vessel (MRSV)/Multi Purpose Support Vessel (MPSV)/Construction Support Vessel (CSV)/Diving Support Vessel (DSV)/Inspection, Maintenance and Repair Vessel (IMR)

From the outside these ships can look look a PSV, but they do have a few extra equipment like a LARS (a system used to send robots to the ocean bed) or a bigger crane and a better positioning system and more perks and options.

While each of the above support vessels is different, I put them all together here because there is a large combination of vessels which have cross over roles or "plug and play" equipment.

Changing the equipment on one vessel could change it's role and function completely.

6-Multipurpose Vessel

A somewhat wishy washy term :) , like we stated in the above category, vessels functions can vary. If you have a vessel that can do pipelaying, cable laying, have a huge crane and a moon pool for ROVs, you wouldn't want to call it a pipelaying vessel, would you?

7-Anchor Handling Tug Supply Vessel (AHTS)

These vessels most distinct feature is that they come with a really big winch. Their purpose is to handle big anchors that are used by even bigger offshore rigs.

8-Heavy Lift Vessel

This ship is huge! not only is it huge, but it can dive underwater where you only see the front and rear parts (semi-submersible), it's so big that it's even used to transport other ships and offshore rigs.

9-Cable-Lay Vessel

While not restricted to use for the offshore oil and gas industry, we thought we'd through this one in, it can help lay fiber optic cables to offshore rigs clusters and in between different locations.

10-Pipelaying Vessel

These ships have welding stations on board to weld those pipes which surprisingly can bend a little and make the pipeline look like one really long worm or noodle depending on how you look at it.

There are different way of laying pipes (each letter denotes the way each noodle looks like!), S-Lay (more horizontal, using a stinger) , J-Lay (almost vertical using more fancy equipment) and O-Lay (the idea looks kind of promising)

We still haven't 3D modeled the following vessels so no awesome renders yet! but please hold on as we are working on it.

11-Drilling Vessel

This ship is used to drill oil and gas wells, the most distinct feature is the drilling tower seen on it.

12-well Intervention Vessel/ Module Handling Vessel

When the wells are becoming "clogged" somehow, or you took all the juice out and you want to squeeze it some more, these ships can give you hope of making that little extra profit.

These ships have pumping equipment and things similar to the fracking industry.

13-Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO)

Sometimes, an oil well is just not worth stretching that pipeline for, transporting by tankers would be a better option and a place to store that oil after extracting it is an FPSO. 

It usually looks like a big oil tanker with a thing at the front of the ship (bow). A floating refinery for oil.

Note: the thing at the bow, is a turret mooring system, this turret is anchor to the seabed so that all connected pipes can be safe from the ship movement and rotation.

Another Note: Some FPSOs are complete rigs and not vessels

14-Crane Vessel

One big vessel with an even bigger crane on top! these cranes can be massive and lift thousands of tons, These can be vessels, Jackup vessels or semi submersibles that you can mistake for a rig, this link over Here have some cool picture


Dirt eaters! these are used to dig trenches for pipe lines for protection and in construction work, like most of the ships we have gone through, their look is quite unique due to their specialized function.

Marine dredging can be done in three ways:

1-Mechanically, where you have a thing that looks like a crane or a loader that lifts sand from the seabed like backhoes or grab dredgers, or more sophisticated like Bucket Ladder Dredgers.


3-Water Blasting

for more info on marine dredging check this link.


Barges can be sometimes more sophisticated than a standard floating box, they can fitted for pipelaying, accommodation or cranes.

17-Accommodation Vessels.

this one is quite obvious, an offshore hotel minus the swimming pool and all the cool perks of a cruise ship :)