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The Heavy Lifters Arrive

by John Gillie
The News Tribune, September 9, 2004

Shanghai Zhenhua Port Machinery (Group) Co. Ltd., a leading manufacturer of cranes and large steel structures, will deliver four giant, fully assembled container cranes to the Port of Tacoma today. This photo shows the ship as it leaves Shanghai Aug. 19. Tacoma's industrial skyline will see four new additions today with the arrival of four giant container cranes, the tallest in the Puget Sound area, at the Port of Tacoma's renovated Pierce County Terminal.

The cranes, built in China, will arrive by ship in Commencement Bay sometime late this afternoon or early this evening. The fully assembled cranes - about 24 stories tall with their booms extended upward - might pause in the bay until the weekend when they will travel up the port's Blair Waterway on the ship that brought them across the Pacific. They'll then be moved onto the pier at the port's newest container terminal.

A specially designed heavy-lift ship carries the cranes physically welded to the ship's superstructure.

The ship uses computerized ballast tanks to keep it stable during heavy weather.

The ship arriving today will carry four cranes. A fifth crane will arrive in October aboard another ship.

The cranes are designed to unload the increasingly large container ships crossing the Pacific. Those vessels are called post-Panamax ships in the maritime business because they're too wide to navigate the Panama Canal.

They typically carry 6,000 or more container units between Asia and the United States.

The cranes have an outreach of 209 feet, the width of 23 trailer-sized shipping containers, said port spokesman Mike Wasem. The cranes will have unprecedented lifting power at the port, 1,340-horsepower electric motors that can lift a container from the ship at 295 feet per minute. That power eclipses the port's now-largest crane, which employs an 880-horsepower motor.

The cranes will become part of the largest construction project in the port's history. The 171-acre terminal will be among the largest on the West Coast when it opens next year.

The terminal ultimately can be expanded to 237 acres. At that size, the facility would be the largest container terminal north of Los Angeles.

At its 171-acre size, the new terminal can handle some 850,000 20-foot-equivalent containers yearly.

Evergreen Lines will occupy the new facility early next year. Evergreen is moving from the port's 75-acre Terminal 4.

The Pierce County Terminal formerly was an import terminal for cars from Asia and for bulk cargoes.

The auto import facilities have been moved to a new Marshall Avenue terminal.

The Blair Waterway was opened up to large container vessels several years ago by the removal of the narrow Blair Bridge on East 11th Street. That drawbridge was too narrow to allow post-Panamax vessels to slip through. Narrower ships used the Blair then, but the bridge was struck and damaged several time when those ships, caught by a sudden gust of wind or current, slammed into the bridge structure.

The waterway has also been deepened to allow larger ships to serve the terminals along its edge.

New cranes by the numbers Source: Port of Tacoma
Size: 249 feet in height (at apex)
Reach: 209-feet outreach with boom down - enough to span 23 containers
Power: 1,340 horsepower on main hoist, the highest horsepower of any container crane in Puget Sound area (next largest container crane in Tacoma is 880 hp)

John Gillie
The Heavy Lifters Arrive
The News Tribune, September 9, 2004

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