Saturday, November 13, 2010

A day out on a 100 tonnes mobile slewing crane

I recently finished a course at Botany Cranes to get a WorkCover 100 tonnes mobile slewing crane licence (for work reasons on boats). Because I was the only one in the class, they sent me with one of the crane drivers for a day for a dual lift job to see first hand the operations of the crane and get some dogging experience. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and more importantly passed the big test at the end. The crane I went on was a Liebherr 100 tonnes crane who make some of the best cranes in the world. The other crane that came with us was the 130t crane. A support truck and crew is also needed for the cranes to carry additional hook blocks, counterweights, packing for the outriggers etc.

Leaving the yard from Botany Bay our destination was the P&O container depot near Bankstown to put together an Omega Megastacker crane (brand new) which is used to lift and move shipping containers.

The Cranes

The job

After a toolbox meeting with the other crew, the cranes are parked into position and outriggers for the cranes extended to maintain stability of the crane during lift. Timber packings are used under the outrigger pads to spread the weight of the crane over a larger surface area onto the ground. All the wheels of the crane must be above ground and the crane dead horizontal. There is an electronic equivalent of a spirit level which makes this process fairly straightforward.

Setting up the outriggers

The crane operator will decide what hook blocks are required for the job, what hook radius he will be operating (and hence how much boom needs to be blown out) and more importantly how much the load mass with all lifting gear such as spreader beams need to be included. The crane operator reads the Load Chart for the crane which gives all this important information and will decide how much counterweight needs to be placed at the rear of the crane. All these factors will dictate what the maximum load the crane can lift for those parameters. With the boom fully extended, this crane would tip over if the operator forgets to place counterweights on the crane. The Liebherr cranes have an onboard computer which also makes all this process straightforward and safe (we don't want the crane to be tipping over or brake the $2.5 mil crane!). The more the boom is blown out or the more the boom is lowered for a given boom length, the less the crane can lift.

After unhooking the hook block at the front of the crane and setting up the counterweights, the crane operator blows out the necessary boom sections. Everything is hydraulically operated and one selects from the computer screen how much boom we want. Two heavy hauler trucks turned up with the Megastacker's boom and arms, nice $20000 paintwork!

The first truck looks like a Transformer in disguise? ;-)

After both cranes are setup and the truck with the first part of the Megastacker in position, the dogmen setup the chain slings required for the job. One person will direct the crane operators for the dual lift job. This is a delicate operation and both cranes need to work together so no extra stress is placed on the cranes and lifting gear. The first part of the job required the boom section of the Megastacker to be placed into position so the Omega technicians could pop in the holding pins for the boom. Once this was done hydraulic rams needed to be lifted and bolted on both sides. The position of the boom had to be in perfect alignment otherwise the pins wouldn't go in.

Putting the million dollar Megastacker together

After the boom section and rams were secured, the next part of the job was to lift and attach the grabber (which grabs and locks into the containers). This was also a delicate operation. Hydraulic rams needed also to be lifted and bolted into position.

The grabber section for the Megastacker
By late afternoon the job was finished and it was time to pack up the gear and stow the cranes for road travel. Because of the tare weight of these cranes, they aren't allowed to travel on some bridges (including Sydney Harbour bridge), tunnels etc so he needs to have a good read of a street directory to decide what is the best route to get to and from a job. We make it back to the Botany Cranes yard after heavy traffic on the main roads. With all the construction that goes around the city, the other cranes are also out doing jobs.

So there you go, great day out and learnt a lot. If you want to see how big these cranes get, checkout the Liebherr 1200 tonnes mobile slewing crane! (Other crane types get even bigger). Doing the Dogman course at the moment (at another school because of timetable reasons). A Dogman is the person who slings the loads, directs the crane operator etc, big test in a few days so better get back to studying! Till next time.


Monday, November 8, 2010


Got a visit in the wheelhouse yesterday by Caricaturist Gavin Bell during a cruise in Sydney Harbour (Red Bull Flugtag event photos coming soon). Here it is!