It might have been named after an ancient stallion ridden by a mythical Norse God but the Sleipnir is very much a real, modern vessel.

In fact, if anything represented the future of the offshore industry, you could say it is this $1.5bn giant craneship officially named last week.

The Heerema Marine Contractors-owned hardware can hoist 20,000-tonne structures into the air — more maritime Hercules than eight-legged Sleipnir.

The Dutch semi-submersible vessel can lift new oil platforms into place, carry away old ones or install giant blades on offshore windfarms.

As the world races into a new age of energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables, this behemoth, with its two massive cranes, has been built in Singapore to handle almost anything.

Heerema Marine Contractors' giant semi-submersible heavylift ship Sleipner being fitted out at Sembcorp Marine's Tuas Boulevard Yard in Singapore Photo: Jonathan Boonzaier

It will compete with a tiny number of specialist vessels such as Allseas Group's Pioneering Spirit, which recently claimed a new heavylift record with topside platforms at the Johan Sverdrup oilfield off Norway.

How many new oilfields will be brought on stream over the lifetime of vessels like this if the world is determined to be zero carbon by 2050 to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change

In fact, one question that could be asked is how many new oilfields will be brought on stream over the lifetime of vessels like this if the world is determined to be zero carbon by 2050 to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change?

Charging into a slump

And, in the immediate term, the Sleipnir charges into a world where four years of lower crude prices have caused a major slump in offshore activity that has bankrupted many in the supply sector.

For instance, offshore support vessel operators have been forced into a wave of defensive mergers, while engineering giants, such as Schlumberger and Halliburton, have been massively cut in size.

Even Heerema Fabrication Group — a sister company to Heerema Marine Contractors — itself announced plans late last year to close platform construction yards in Hartlepool, UK, and Zwijndrecht in the Netherlands.

Brent blend crudewas under $70 per barrel this week despite hopes that the China-US trade war may soon be over and despite continued geopolitical pressure in the Middle East.

But executives of Heerema Marine Contractors boast its new vessel has a mix of 18 contracts lined up, which will keep it busy for the next two years.

Its first job will be to install topside platforms on Noble Energy’s Leviathan gas project off Israel, which is part of a newly discovered hub of gas fields around the Eastern Mediterranean.

Renewables beckoning

The world of renewables is also beckoning. Heerema Marine Contractors’ steel steed — claimed to be the largest crane ship ever constructed — has been earmarked to transport and install a major platform used in a giant new windfarm zone off the Netherlands.

Putting in place the high-voltage electricity substation for the Hollandse Kust Zuid (HKZ) Alpha project will not need the Sleipnir’s full lifting power, or anywhere near.

But it should demonstrate the crane vessel can be used in shallow water — in this case, 35.4 kilometres (22 miles) off the Dutch coast — and that it can be an important player in the “green” revolution.

The HKZ scheme, operated by Vattenfall of Sweden, has particular importance because it is one of the first offshore windfarms to be constructed without financial subsidies.

Oil majors changing tack

Next year the tender for a second, 750MW phase will be awarded, with Shell bidding as part of a Witwind consortium against Vattenfall.

So here we have, potentially, Heerema Marine Contractors and Shell — two of the biggest names in offshore oil — becoming key parts of the wind revolution.

While wind schemes are taking off in the Netherlands, Germany and the UK, old North Sea oilfields need to be decommissioned.

Heerema Marine Contractors has lined up the Sleipnir to decommission Shell’s Brent Alpha platform jacket in the North Sea.

It has also established Fairfield Decom, together with Norway’s AF Group and the UK’s Decom Energy, to be based in Aberdeen.

The Oil and Gas Authority claims there will be contracts worth £58bn in the UK sector alone over the next half century.

Heerema Marine Contractors contracted the Sleipnir in March 2015 when the oil price had slumped to below $50 per barrel. A new giant craneship was a big bet but it now looks in the right place at the right time.