14 June 2023






2 mins

One of the most interesting drillship operations at Grand Harbour, is no doubt the one of the American GSF EXPLORER that happened during June 2005.

On Saturday 7th May afternoon the 189 metres long (loa) drillship GSF EXPLORER coming from the Gulf of Mexico and homeported at Houston, Texas (USA Flag) was spotted entering Grand Harbour, assisted by 3 Tug Malta tugboats including a single screw bound to Parlatorio Wharf North.

GSF EXPLORER was the formerly USNS HUGHES GLOMAR EXPLORER T-AG 193 the secret 1974 effort by the United States Central Intelligence Agency’s  (CIA) Special Activities Division to recover the Soviet diesel electric submarine K-129 which sank in the Pacific Ocean 1,560 miles  NW of Hawaii on 8th March 1968.

Lots of preparations were done for this interesting operation starting with maiden call for 3 Smit Tak Units starting with the 1976 built 72 metre floating sheerlegs TAKLIFT 7  passing breakwaters at 0925 hrs. She was built in Germany by Howaldtswerke Deutsche Werft (HDW) at Kiel as HEBELIFT 3. On 11th June 1987 she was renamed as TAKLIFT 7


Then 2 hours later the towage of the sister barge TAK 5 loaded with more TAKLIFT 7 equipment towed by the 1975 built tug ZEELEEUW entered too.


They all entered Grand Harbour on Monday 9th May, 2005 and berthed at Parlatorio Wharf South with the barge TAK 5 berthed ahead of the sheerlegs for the extension jib.

With TAKLIFT 7 extension completed it was the turn of this interesting operation.

On Thursday 12 the May the lifting operation was done – Lifting of the drill tower to  be taken down in order for the ship to go under the two bridges leading to the Bosphorus Strait, Turkey.

Few days later GSF EXPLORER drydocked before headed to the Black Sea where she was spotted below passing one of the Bridges on Wednesday 22nd June. She was the first deepwater offshore vessel in those waters.

After that it was off to Malta for drydocking at Malta Shipyards and then on to the Black Sea, where it was the first deepwater offshore vessel in those waters. The top of the derrick had to be taken down in order for the ship to go under the two bridges leading to the Bosporus Strait.

All Photographs with others in archives are AGAINST PAYMENT so feel free to email us with your requirements.

Watermarked Photos are by Capt. Lawrence Dalli otherwise stated. NO PHOTOS can be used or manipulated without our permission.
© All rights reserved. Malta Ship Photos & Action Photos –