What Is a Commercial Lift Boat – Everything You Need To Know 

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Lift boats are one of the most fascinating vessels on the water. Their towering legs, impressive lifting capabilities, and massive deck space certainly make them a favorite among various commercial operators across the world.

You can usually see these boats towering over the horizon in oil and gas fields, construction sites, and sometimes even as part of emergency response efforts. But what exactly are these specialized vessels and how do they serve such a variety of purposes?

In this blog post, we’ll be taking a closer look at what exactly a commercial lift boat is, what it is capable of doing, and why it’s such an essential part of modern-day marine operations. So buckle up and get ready to dive into the world of lift boats.


What’s Exactly a Lift Boat?

Lift boats are a type of boat that feature a large open deck and legs that are capable of lifting the boat up from the water, and creating a stable platform to carry out various maintenance and construction-related activities.

This capability of these boats is known as jacking-up, where its legs are extended to reach the seabed for stability. They’re quite popular for offshore activities, particularly in the oil and gas industry, where they’re prominently used for maintenance and construction work on platforms.

They’re also equipped with at least one crane that allows them to lift heavy equipment and materials while following the safety guidelines from regulatory bodies such as the Code of Federal Regulations in the United States.

Before jacking up, lift boats are required to go through a safety procedure known as preload, where the holds are filled with water for additional weight, and the boat is allowed to settle into the mud to ensure optimal stability.

However, site surveys are still required to prevent seafloor instability that may lead to potential accidents. All in all, lift boats are essential in the offshore industry because of the several unique features they offer.


Where These Lift Boats are Typically Found?

Lift boats are primarily used in offshore production, drilling, and mining operations, which is why they’re mainly owned and operated by private construction or oil companies. A crucial factor required to determine the location of these boats is the depth of water.

Usually, these boats are located in shallow waters near the shore as they do not perform quite well in rougher waters. They require their legs to reach the bottom of the water to elevate themselves out of the water, which is why shallow waters are preferred due to their calmness.

That being said, it’s easier for them to lift out of the water in shallow waters as they can easily extend their legs and connect to the earth more firmly. However, while they are convenient for offshore industry work in shallow waters, they still lack the ability to navigate in choppy waters.

That’s because the hull design of these boats isn’t optimized for heavy seas. In deeper waters, the waves are usually more unpredictable and significant, which makes it challenging for the boats to maintain optimal stability.


Various Parts of a Lift Boat Explained

Here’s a quick rundown of the various parts used in a lift boat:


The legs are one of the most distinctive features of a lift boat. Most of these have three pipe legs that are lowered down to the seafloor to lift the boat up out of the water. Some boats also have four legs, but they’re more expensive and don’t offer any significant benefit in terms of buoyancy.

These legs are designed to work in waters over 220 feet deep and require adopting a lattice structure to support the boat beyond that depth.

Jacking System

The jacking system is a crucial part of the lift boat which is used to lift the boat up out of the water. While other rigs have a jacking system too, the jacking system on these boats is a little special. It’s speedy, efficient, and able to elevate at a rate of four to six feet per minute.

Moreover, it can lower the legs even quicker, at a rate of 14 to 18 feet per minute. It’s also made more resilient to shock loads, which provides added durability that allows it to handle the rough conditions encountered offshore.


A lift boat’s deck is a large, flat, and open area that’s mainly used for loading and unloading stores, operating machinery, and storing equipment. Compared to conventional boats, the deck of a lift boat is completely open.

In contrast to the raised sections and gunwales or railings in conventional boats, the open deck allows easy access to all the areas of this vessel. Therefore, it allows for more capacity for storing equipment, which makes lift boats highly valuable for offshore production and work.


Lift boats are self-propelled, with a fairly large propeller that allows them to easily move around just like a normal boat. However, they’re still not suitable for rough, open waters, and are mainly used for offshore work in calmer conditions only.


A lot of lift boats are also equipped with a crane, which is used to lift heavy equipment and material on and off the vessel. It’s usually mounted on the deck to gain easy access to all the areas of the vessel.


Certain lift boats are also used to land helicopters, and for that particular reason, they’re equipped with a helideck. The helideck is a flat and large open space that offers a safe landing space for helicopters, even out at sea.


What Are the Benefits of Using a Lift Boat?

Lift boats are incredibly versatile and can be used for a wide range of purposes. They provide certain benefits over other types of vessels, which makes them an increasingly popular option in the offshore industry. Let’s take a look at the key benefits of using a lift boat:

Cost Effective Way to Store Equipment and Offshore

One of the primary benefits of using a lift boat is that it’s a cost-effective way to store equipment and supplies offshore. They’re equipped with spacious decks that can be used for storage and can be anchored in place for extended periods.

Self-Propelling and Don’t Require Tug’s Assistance

Unlike other vessels, lift boats are self-propelling and don’t need any tug assistance, which means they can be maneuvered easily and quickly. This makes them ideal for offshore operations that require precise and quick movements.

Also, they can be operated by a small crew, which also reduces the overall cost of operating these vessels.

Provide Workers with a Stable Flat Platform

Another prominent benefit of using a lift boat is that they offer workers a flat platform out in the water, which is especially important for offshore operations that require workers to perform precise or delicate tasks.

The stability of the platform makes it easier for the workers to complete their tasks efficiently and with proper safety.

Better Than Jack-Up Drilling Risk

Lift boats are a better option than jack-up drilling rigs or derrick barges when compared to other types of vessels. These have a self-contained hydraulic system that allows them to extend their legs to the seabed, providing a stable working platform.

Used in building and maintenance

Lift boats are outfitted with cranes and other heavy equipment, making them ideal for the construction and maintenance of offshore structures. They can also transport personnel and supplies to and from offshore locations.


The History of Lift Boats

In 1955, a revolutionary maritime engineering design was produced by the imaginative minds of two brothers – Lynn and Orin Dean, in Violet, Louisiana. During that time, the Dean brothers operated a multi-purpose repair business known as the Universal Repair Service.

Today, the same company functions under the name of Elevating Boats LLC. Their creation of the lift boat was one of a kind, a game-changer that introduced several new possibilities for the oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico.

Presently, the company, with its lift boat in Houma, Louisiana, has continued to grow and currently operates around thirty of these vessels that serve the shallow water oil and gas industry, making a tremendous achievement for the company and the lift boat industry as a whole.


How Does a Lift Boat Work?

Typically, a lift boat operates in two distinct modes – transport and working mode. When in the former, the boat’s legs are elevated, which enables the propeller and other parts of the hull to submerge in water. This renders the lift boat similar to any other ship navigating through waterways.

When in this mode, the entire length of the retractable legs is visible on the deck. On the other hand, in working mode, the boat arrives at its destination and lowers its legs, with enough jacking height to touch the seafloor.

The firm placement of these legs makes sure that the lift boat remains stable and unaffected by natural elements like waves or wind. When in this mode, the crew uses cranes to perform a wide range of industrial and commercial activities.


Final Words

If you’re reading this far, you may now know what exactly a commercial lift boat is. These vessels are extremely important for offshore construction and transportation activities and are certainly one of a kind. We hope you found the information shared here helpful.


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