Two new monster cranes on the skyline at the Port of Saint John
The Saint John skyline is about to change as two new massive industrial cranes floated into Saint John Harbor on Friday.
Weighing in at over 16,000 tonnes, the two Super Post-Panamax cranes will be around 30 meters taller than the current pair.
“They’re quite a bit larger than the existing cranes,” said Maksim Mihic, a mechanical engineer by trade and now CEO and general manager of DP World Canada Inc., the company that owns and operates the cranes.
He boasts that they have the same amount of technology equivalent to an airplane or a power plant, but packed into a machine that “flies” at the flick of a joystick.
Bringing these cranes to New Brunswick was a colossal undertaking.
The cranes are from South Carolina and have been at sea for a week. They departed DP World’s Charleston facilities on Jan. 22 and traveled up the East Coast to Saint John aboard the Hanjin Pioneer heavy-duty transporter.
The cranes were loaded onto the ship using a massive dolly and once lowered, the crews spent about a week securing them. This involved welding part of the cranes directly to the ship, tying them down with massive ropes and crossing their legs.
Worth around $25 million each, it’s a cargo no one would want to lose.
Planning a course was the next challenge. Mihic has seen more than 20 similar cranes built and delivered in his 25 years at DP World. He says logistics can be half the battle.
Crews worked to time this northbound voyage to avoid potential storms and rough seas that could make transport dangerous. He said deploying ships large enough to carry mammoth cargo but fast enough to beat the weather, moving at speeds of between 15 and 17 nautical miles per hour, is crucial.
“Storms move slower, like 11 or 12 miles, so they’re well calculated and designed,” Mihic said of using ships with fast engines. “If you move them around the world, they have to…run away from the storm.”
Although the cranes have now reached their destination, Mihic says it will still take a week to free them from the Hanjin Pioneer and move them off the ship and bring them to shore. This includes loosening the massive fasteners and severing the welds that fused the cranes to the ship.
Unloading will be a meticulous process, he said, requiring the use of hydraulic jacks to move the cranes onto massive dollies. The Hanjin Pioneer has to balance itself with ballast to counteract the weight of the cranes being unloaded.
It’s a challenging operation, but Mihic says it’s something the company does every day around the world.
“You have to use the right methodology and construction and make sure you meet all the requirements, the ship is well balanced and the bottom pressure is evenly distributed so you don’t damage the dock,” Mihic said.
Once the cranes are unloaded, it will take weeks to install them. Saint Johners will have until March to watch the structures reach their final form.
“After that it’s going to take us a month to do the assembly and restore it to the original configuration and then go to the commissioning certifications and all that stuff,” Mihic said. “So you would be available in early March.”
Jane Wilson, a Saint John resident, said a booming port will make the city more attractive to the rest of the world when it comes to new residents, businesses and infrastructure.
She said she believes Saint John used to be the most powerful city in the province, but Moncton has since filled that role. With the new arrivals in town, she believes Saint John can reclaim the top spot.
From the cranes to the upgraded rail terminals, Wilson said she hopes the port “becomes viable like it was in the 1940s [or] 50’s.”
“Here I am at 62, seeing the port going back to how it was before I was born,” she said.
Another Saint John resident, Sandy Robertson, was standing on the boardwalk ready to take photos when the cranes came in. He said, “It’s something you don’t see every day,” which prompted him to watch.
He said Saint John’s future depended on the port.
“It’s great to see the city come back to life,” said Robertson. “We have some bright lights ahead and I’m excited to be a lifelong resident of Saint John.”
The cranes will be located alongside the two cranes already installed at the Port of Saint John. And although they’re slightly larger and about seven years younger than their fellow cranes, these cranes are part of the family. Both sets were built in South Carolina by DP World.
“They are sisters,” said Craig Estabrooks, President and CEO of the Port of Saint John. “They’ll be exactly the same color, they’ll look the same, just significantly larger in terms of height.”
According to Estabrooks, the addition of the new cranes will allow the port to offload much larger container ships. And when used in conjunction with current cranes, they will more than double the amount of cargo that can be unloaded at the port.
Estabrooks likens these cranes to a linchpin in the port’s expansion plans. He says that the equivalent of 86,000 containers passed through the port in previous years. Last year it was 150,000. He sees the two containers as the linchpin of future expansion.
“We’re seeing explosive growth,” Estabrooks said.
To celebrate the arrival of the two cranes, Estabrooks says there will be a public tour at the port’s container village on Saturday from 12pm to 2pm