HHLA's floating cranes to continue lifting heavy loads
Trusty servants retrofitted

HHLA’s floating cranes to continue lifting heavy loads

Photo HHLA

With the demand for heavy-lift services in high demand at the port of Hamburg, Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA), has decided not to retire its two Demag-built floating cranes, but rather to retrofit them for a sustainable future and continued handling of heavy loads. 

The company has decided to retrofit the HHLA IV, a 1956-built floating crane as well as the HHLA IIO which is 16 years its senior. HHLA said it opted against the construction of a new crane as it would result in very high requirements in terms of energy and materials for such a large piece of equipment.

“This is the first major retrofit of the HHLA IV in seven decades of service,” says Stephan Fröhlich, Head of Floating Cranes at Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG. The project is based on the original construction and schematics from the 1950s. The retrofit should ensure the machine can continue to function for at least a further 15 years. By then, the crane will be celebrating its 80th birthday.”

Why retrofit?

HHLA said it has opted for the retrofit primarily because the mid-20th century construction continues to be perfectly suited to specific tasks in the port. Since the 1960s, most goods have of course been handled by container gantry cranes. But there are still occasionally heavy loads and oversize dimensions that need handling.

These include things like ship propellers, that can weigh more than 100 tonnes, and components for offshore wind farms. This is where HHLA’s two floating cranes come in. They can lift very heavy loads very flexibly, transport them autonomously and load them onto enormous ships. For the heaviest loads, the cranes can even work in tandem.

HHLA's floating cranes to continue lifting heavy loads
Photo: HHLA

“The fact that our cranes can turn 360 degrees is almost unique in heavy goods handling in ports today,” says machinist Heinrich Proes, the inland shipping specialist who has been part of the Floating Cranes team for 19 years.

This is made possible by their traditional construction: A cone-shaped steel-frame tower is securely attached to the pontoon. The continuously rotating superstructure is slid over this like a hood. Towards the top of it are the bearings of the jib construction with the lower arms (hitch lifting arms) and upper arms (upper links). The tip of the jib completes the geometry at the front, with the counterbalance at the back.

Maintenance for safe operation under heavy loads

Together, the lower rotating assembly and tip of the load-bearing construction bear the vertical and horizontal forces. A whole battery of slip rings at the heart of the superstructure transfer the electrical energy and control signals between the superstructure and the vessel.

The team of nine under Stephan Fröhlich takes great care to ensure their equipment is properly maintained and that all deadlines are observed. New steel cables are installed every ten years. The crane goes into the dry dock every five years to clean the hull of the pontoon and repaint it. The crane components are lubricated every six months.

In addition to the maintenance schedule, the equipment is also reclassified regularly. The older HHLA IV has already received its reclassification in December 2022. The crew sees that as a good omen for the successful completion of the work currently underway for HHLA III.

Author: Adnan Bajic

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