1. The Bottsand Split-Hull

Although she looks like Dr. Evil’s headquarters, this unique vessel fulfills the noble mission of cleaning oil spills in the Baltic. Built in 1985 by C. Lühring and Schiffko for the German Navy, the Bottsand has a hinge mechanism at the stern, allowing the entire hull to split scissor-like to an angle of 65 degrees, creating a collection area of 40 m2 (431 sq.ft). The seven storage tanks have a capacity of 790 m3 (or 5,000 barrels of recovered oil).

Bottsand at Emden Dockyard, Germany.
Bottsand at Emden Dockyard, Germany. (Credits: Hartema Heyken)

2. Soviet ship Kosmonavt Yuriy Gagarin

Naming a ship after an astronaut would have been somewhat quirky, had she not been used for actual space control. The striking appearance came from four giant parabolic-reflector antennas on top of the hull, collecting satellite communications from space missions, when their orbits were not above the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, when the USSR was scrapped, so was she. But looking at the photo, I can almost hear M’s voice: “Your mission, Bond, is to climb those antennas, shoot the villain, and crack a tacky joke.”

Kosmonavt Yuriy Gagarin, 15 May 1987.
Kosmonavt Yuriy Gagarin, 15 May 1987. (Source: Unknown Author, Public Domain, Wiki Commons)

3. BOKA Vanguard

The world’s largest semisubmersible heavy-lift ship was built in 2012 by Hyundai Heavy Industries to carry giant oil rigs and offshore platforms to their operating locations. Yes, carry. Her enormous deck (230 by 902 ft; 275 by 70 m), can be submersed up to 52 ft (16 m) beneath the surface, allowing her to lift entire ships out of the water. The Vanguard was supposed to move the wreck of Costa Concordia and carry her to the breaking yard, but Costa ultimately opted for refloating instead.

The BOKA Vanguard carrying the Carnival Vista to Freeport, Bahamas for repairs.
The BOKA Vanguard carrying the Carnival Vista to Freeport, Bahamas for repairs. (Credits: Captain Vittorio Marchi through Cruise Ship Profiles)

4. City of Rotterdam

Some call her “the floating sausage”, while others remain speechless, but no one argues that the Japanese-built RORO ship City of Rotterdam has a unique profile. And while the poor car-carrier may not have the nose of a cover model, she still has tons of character. 21,000 tons, to be precise.

The City of Rotterdam at the Port of Tyne.
The City of Rotterdam at the Port of Tyne. (Credits: Richard Ogilvie through Marine Traffic)

5. Container Ship Natori

Despite a retrofuturistic face, the Natori was built as recently as 2015. Her creators at the Kyokuyo shipyard in Shimonoseki justify the unusual bow-design with increased stability in windy weather. A totally credible argument, considering how reminiscent the bow is of a jet airliner.

Natori in Kanmo Ko, Japan.
Natori in Kanmo Ko, Japan. (Credits: Lappino through Ship Spotting)

6. The Cristo Rey Floating Church

For most of history, the enormous Parana River Delta in Argentina was plagued by logistical challenges, and sacred rituals made no exception. To provide the dispersed population with more-than-basic religious services, the church/ship Cristo Rey plied the vast delta between 1936 and 1952. Decorated with enough detail and finesse to make the Vatican proud, Cristo Rey helped thousands receive baptism, holy matrimony, and last rites. The steamer’s impressive neo-Gothic tower still stands in the courtyard of a local police station.

Cristo Rey Church Ship
Cristo Rey (Source: Comunidad Nautica)

7. E-Ship 1

This unique RoRo car-carrier set sail in 2010. Literally. Flettner vessels like the E-Ship 1 are powered by spinning rotor sails, which generate a side force by creating a pressure difference, much like a curveball in sports. In this case, however, the side force is resisted by the ship’s hull, propelling the vessel forward instead. Clever. And odd-looking.

E-Ship 1 in Emder Hafen.
 E-Ship 1 in Emder Hafen. (Source: Wiki Commons)

8. ANAX Ferry

Holidaymakers frequenting the Greek island of Thassos cannot imagine their vacation without this eye-catching sea creature. The extravagant red ferry hauls passengers and their vehicles from the mainland town of Keramoti to the island’s capital Limenas.

Strangest ship Anax at Limenas, Thassos.
Anax at Limenas, Thassos. (Credits: Bengt Y. Johansson through Marine Traffic)

9. Tugboat OSG Vision

Despite being somewhat reminiscent of a diving tower, this American tug showcases the latest developments in ATB design and technology. Articulated Tug Barges (or ATBs) combine a tug in front and a tank barge in the back, locked together with a hinge connection, not unlike a truck trailer. They are popular in the coastal oil trade as cheaper and more versatile alternatives to tankers.

OCG Vision
OCG Vision (Credits: John Curdy)

10. BoldWind Deck Carrier

Another (possibly) airplane-inspired design, BoldWind and her sister BraveWind are tailor-made to serve offshore windfarms. The two heavy lifters transport giant components, such as blades and towers, from manufacturing facilities to the final offshore destination.  

Boldwind Strangest Ships
Boldwind (Source: Break Bulk News)

11. Nexus Cable-Laying Vessel

If she reminds you of a giant floating spool, well…she is. Plus futuristic technology, pioneering design, flawless engineering, and visionary thinking on a grand scale. In fact, the Nexus is perhaps the most technically advanced cable layer to date, doubling as a dumping vessel for windfarm rock foundations.

Nexus (Source: Marine Traffic)

12. Hopper Dredger MAKRAN 2

Little is known about this Iranian vessel, except the unusual bow design. Hopper dredgers, in general, function like giant vacuum cleaners and are used for clearing waterways, deepening canals, restoring eroded bridges, and land reclamation.

Makran 2 (Credits: Jan Verhoog though Marine Traffic)
Makran 2 (Credits: Jan Verhoog though Marine Traffic)

If you loved reading about the strangest ships out there, come back next week to explore twelve even stranger vessels!

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