While the Kremlin in Moscow hosts the world’s largest bell, known as Tsarsky Kolokol or Tsar Bell, a Volga River port close to the Caspian Sea, Astrakhan, also hosts a huge metal Russian icon: the drillship Ispolin.
Ispolin, which translates from Russian as Giant, is a catamaran-type vessel that was built during the final years of the Soviet Union to operate a sea crane with lifting capacity of 1200 tonnes.
However, following installation of the crane at a shipyard near Astrakhan, it was never certified as safe to operate.
The drillship stood idle until the end of 1990s when then state-controlled oil producer Rosneft decided to convert it into a drillship.
At a reported upgrading expense of about $60 million, a land rig was installed on the bow of Ispolin.
The conversion was completed in 2006, right at the time Rosneft started to lose interest in shallow-water developments in Kazakhstan's Caspian Sea waters.
The drillship remained idle after the upgrade and attempts to sell it in recent years have failed to catch the eye of any interested buyer because of its limited drilling depth and the narrow windows in which it can operate in the Caspian.
An attempt at a sale was made last year when the Ispolin was listed on Avito, a Russian online auction website, at the price of 1.72 billion roubles ($23 million).
That attempt, however, also failed and the drillship is currently being marketed via a Rosneft-affiliated tendering platform, with an asking price of around 1.6 billion roubles.
Both the Tsar Bell and the Ispolin share a similar fate: the former never rang and the latter never drilled.
Soon after the Tsar Bell’s casting, a fire broke out and spread to its temporary wooden support structure. Fearing damage, guards threw water on it, causing cracks and a huge slab to break off.
As for the Ispolin, the would-be drillship lays silent in a Volga River canal.