The UT 704 story

There was a thread about the history of the UT 704 design some years back, but that deteriorated into a slinging match about Noah’s Arc and Gorilla cages,

Today I found this article from Ulstein History Society about the UT 704:

It is in Nynorsk, but actually translate reasonably well with Google Translation.

I must confess that I have never actually sailed with one of them, but have done lots of rig moves and tows with UT 704s and inspected many of them for various purposes over the years.

I know a bit about the UT 704. Back in the early 80s I was master of one of the last 704s the 704 Mk III Star Polaris, and then moved on to one of its progeny the UT 734 Star Sirius. In 1994 I spent some time on the Croatian 704 Brodaspas Rainbow recovering a rig anchor chain in 2000 ft of water off Israel which, despite the ship’s limitations, we succeeded in doing. I also wrote brief articles describing about 50 important offshore vessels for a Dutch tug newsletter a few years ago. Here’s the UT 704.


And now (small drull of drums) we come the the UT704. I have been following a ship enthusiasts forum on gCaptain which generally claimed that all supply ship designs originated in Norway, a statement which is true only in part. In fact Tidewater used to claim the credit for initiating the design of the UT704, and incidentally virtually every European anchor-handler since, when they commissioned the Mammoth Tide and Goliath Tide from Ulsteins in 1974. These vessels were 218ft long with 8000 BHP provided by four engines. They were then the most powerful vessels ever constructed for the offshore oil industry and cost $3,000,000 each. But Ulsteins, even up to today have never been reluctant about adopting other people’s good ideas, and it is likely that aspects of the Tidewater ships were incorporated into their later designs, although they did not choose to include the gantry fitted to the American vessels, intended to transport containers from the stern to the fore end of the deck. The first 704 to enter service was the Skaustream built in Finland by Oy Laivarteolisuus in 1975, who also built three further vessels in the same year. It was powered by two Nohab diesels giving 7040 BHP, and was provided with a single 500 bhp bow thruster. In this configuration bollard pulls of between 90 and 100 tons were claimed. The design was the first to incorporated rounded quarters to allow the tow wire free movement during turns. Up to that time naval architects had attempted to emulate the stern of type traditional tug in the towing mode, while providing a roller for decking the anchors during rig shifts. You will remember that this necessitated the closing of a gate under the tow wire to provide free movement, and required a certain amount of dexterity on the part of the deck crews who had to make the initial connection with the gate open, and then close it under the wire. However the moulded quarters required the provision of some means of restricting the movement of the wires during anchor handling and for this purpose the 704s were provided with hydraulic pins which rose out of the deck and trapped the wire, almost incidently making the operation 100% safer. The design also moved the winch controls from a deck-house ahead of the winch to a position on the bridge. This at a stroke enhanced communication between the Master and the Chief Engineer, who operated the winch, improved visibility and kept the Chief warm. Later the Master was also given much improved visibility while manoeuvering, the vessel being provided with with a full length window at the after end, although in the earliest ships the funnels restricted vision on the quarters. Later this problem was solved by reducing the funnel height and extending the exhausts from the top. In addition to all the other advantages provided by the design they had controllable pitch propulsion, in a stroke removing the problems related to the change in propeller direction from ahead to astern and back. 91 UT704s were to be constructed between 1975 and 1993.

This was just one of the many improvements that came about because the Owners, builders, designers and users of the boats and equipment were from the same small places along the Norwegian coast.
They knew each other, had gone to school together. played football together and lived in similar houses in the same villages. (No “Class difference”)

BTW; UT 704 wasn’t the first Norwegian owned or built OSVs.
This was the first Norwegian flag OSV:

The first Norwegian supply ship, Sea Pearl (800 tdw, 3800 bhp), from Mangone Shipbuilding in 1971 to Bugge Supply Ships, Tønsberg

The first one built in Norway was this one:

RIG CHIEF (965 tdw/2310 bhk, var blant de første norskbygde, levert fra Gerh Voldnes, Fosnavåg, i 1974 til Sandøy Supply i Brattvåg. NSS-Jenssensamlingen

By 1973 there were 25 Norwegian OSVs, mostly US built.

Source: De første forsyningsskip — Skipet

The crews on the early Norwegian OSVs didn’t feel any inhabitation from telling the designers, builders and equipment suppliers “a thing or two” about what was wrong and how it could be improved.

Sigmund Borgundvåg, the designer of the UT 704, who had been on fishing boats in his young days, both understood and appreciated the input and incorporated it in the next boat and future designs.

The first UT-704 from Ulstein (after two were delivered from other shipyards), STAD SEA (1200 tdw / 7040 bhp) delivered in June 1975 to Farstad in Ålesund. Later renamed FAR SEA and sold to the USA in 1987. The NSS-Jenssen collection

The Ulstein history goes back more than 100 years, from the start as a Smithy and Mechanical Workshop in 1917, through many generation of the Ulstein family and many twists and turns:

The expansion came with Idar Ulstein as the CEO from 1962 - 97 but stayed on as Chairman.
He died in 2012:

The sale of Ulstein Group to Vickers and subsequent sale of Vickers to Rolls Royce in 1999 was a game changer. (Now sold Kongsberg Marine)

PS> Sigmund Borgundvåg stayed on as Chief Designer with RRM and the prefix UT was kept, also for later designs.

The Ulstein family retained the shipyard in Ulsteinvik to have something left:

Today the Ulstein Group is for the first time run by somebody not from the Ulstein family:

The family retain majority ownership though.

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Great history.