Of the three ways to move outsized, awkward cargoes—wet-transport towing for things that float, dry-transport hauling on towed barges for things that don’t, or the use of specially constructed heavy-lift ships—the heavy-lift ships are the safest, fastest, and most economical means. Also, heavy-lift insurance costs are a fraction of those for towing and barge-shipping.
The first heavy-lift ship, the MV Lichtenfels, was put into service in 1929 by the German company DDG Hansa. She had a 120-ton lift capability. As more ships were constructed or converted for the purpose (heavy lift was defined as loads greater than 100 tons), they looked like conventional break-bulk freighters of the time, distinguished only by larger masts and booms.