With the need for flexibility in multi-purpose terminals, demand for mobile cranes is growing for Northeast ports.

Liebherr LHM 180 crane
Liebherr LHM 180 crane

There is no doubt that the mobile harbor crane has changed the business plan at a large number of ports and marine terminals in the United States. Mobile harbor cranes have introduced a capability at the medium to small port facilities that prior to their appearance, were faced with either financial commitments beyond their abilities or the loss of potential cargo handling revenues. The mobile harbor crane has even enhanced the portfolio of larger marine terminal operators with a capability that heretofore had not been realized. The flexibility of today’s mobile harbor cranes has led to its popularity. It has a dual capability with the potential to move about at a marine terminal to work vessels and barges on any accessible dockside location or provide heavy lift support during backland receipt and delivery of cargo.

Northeast ports epitomize the variety of uses open to terminals with mobile harbor cranes. From Maine to Virginia, port terminals handle general commodities, containers, scrap, steel, lumber, a variety of bulk and specialty cargoes such as windmill components. There are mobile harbor cranes at facilities in a number of Northeast US ports and over the last ten years, the population has increased significantly.

Ports and Mobile Cranes

The Port of Searsport, Maine took delivery of a Liebherr 550 in 2012 and utilizes its capacity - up to 140 tons - to handle windmill components, project cargoes and bulk commodities. The crane is equipped with a 37 cu yard bucket.

The Port of Portland, Maine has had a Liebherr mobile harbor crane at its terminal in Portland for sometime. An earlier model than the Searsport crane, Portland utilizes it for handling containers as well as general cargo.

The Ports in Providence and Quonset Point combine for three mobile harbor cranes, one a Gottwald at Quonset Point and two Liebherrs at the Port of Providence.

The Port of Albany New York has been utilizing their first Liebherr mobile harbor crane for almost fifteen years. The crane was commissioned in 2001 and was handling the fledgling container barge service between Albany and the Port of New York. Since the demise of the barge service, the Liebherr has been joined by a second crane, a Liebherr 550. The newer crane is just over one year old and both cranes handle pulp, bulk cargoes and heavy lifts.

The Port of New York’s American Stevedoring at Port Elizabeth, NJ had been utilizing two Liebherr 400’s since 1999, when it began operating at the facility. The New Jersey terminal is now owned by the Port of New York and has been renamed Redhook Container Terminal. Originally, the terminal shuttled containers across the harbor to sister terminal Red Hook Terminal in Brooklyn, which is also owned by the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey (PANYNJ). Even now the cranes continue to handle containers and heavy lift in New Jersey.

The Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania terminal, originally owned by Novolog and now operated by Kinder Morgan, has been utilizing two Gottwald Mobile Harbor Cranes since 1999. They subsequently purchased a third Gottwald crane in 2006. The two early model Gottwalds are two rope cranes.One has a capacity of 80 tons, the other is a 100 ton model. In 2006, the facility purchased a Gottwald four rope 80 ton model that will handle a four rope bucket. This facility utilizes their cranes for discharging steel, pipe, rebar and various dry bulk commodities.

At Gloucester Terminals, Holt’s facility in Gloucester, New Jersey, three Liebherrs are in place. Two of the cranes were purchased through Liebherr as used cranes from Ports in Spain and Romania. Holt had purchased a new Liebher 550 prior to acquiring the used cranes. All of the Liebherr cranes primarily handle steel slabs and containers.

Philadelphia has acquired two used Liebherr cranes, purchased from Penn Terminals, an independent breakbulk facility south of the Port of Philadelphia. One of the cranes is located at Horizon Terminals, a private operation handling containers and general cargo. The second crane to come out of Penn Terminals is located at the Port Authority’s Tioga Terminal, the primary home of terminal operator Delaware River Stevedores.

At the Port of Wilmington, Delaware, down river from Gloucester and Philadelphia, the Port purchased a Gottwald Model HMK 6407. This crane has been in operation for a number of years and handles containers as well as import and export bulk commodities including petcoke and salt. Wilmington has been considering the purchase of another mobile harbor crane to compliment their two new Kocks container gantry cranes soon to arrive.

The Rukert Terminal Corporation in the Port of Baltimore acquired a Liebherr to work on, at that time, their then new facility. The Terminal was constructed to the heaviest standards necessary to handle heavy cargoes and the new Liebherr crane. The Model 500S was the largest mobile harbor crane on the East Coast when purchased. The crane’s capacity at 51 meters outreach is 140 tons. Utilized primarily for project and heavy lift cargo, it also handles bulk commodities.

The Virginia Port Authority (VPA) recently took delivery of a new Liebherr 550 that has been delivered to its new inland marine terminal operation located at the Port of Richmond, VA. The VPA recently won the contract to operate the terminal and will utilize the crane to support the container feeder barge service that has been growing rapidly. The barge will be operated from the VPA container facilities at Norfolk and Portsmouth in Hampton Roads to the Port of Richmond. This crane will utilize a mobile harbor crane spreader to handle containers but will be available for general cargo as well as bulk cargo if appropriate.

Future of Mobility

It has been reported that the Liebherr models reach their maximum speed of 120 meters per minute within three seconds. The Liebherr crane also offers a “unique mobility including 360 degree movement, turning on the spot and moving perpendicular on the pier.”

With today’s undercarriage designs, mobile harbor crane models are available to work at a variety of dockside structures. Models are offered that have undercarriage that will mitigate ground pressures for lighter dock construction. For many ports, the ability to design a dock structure without rails or with reduced ground pressure, can mean the difference in the vessels and cargoes they will be able to handle as well as which crane they choose.

At the moment, it appears that Liebherr’s undercarriage design not only offers the lowest possible impact, but also provides five directional capabilities with slewing on the spot, steering around curves, moving sideways, moving diagonally and moving longitudinally.

In offering eight models, Gottwald indicates that its maximum lift is up to 200 tons at a 58-meter outreach. Gottwald offers seven models ranging from 80 tons to 200 tons maximum capacity. What Gottwald has to offer is an energy efficient electrical drive system and individual hydraulically steered axles providing “crab style” traveling and a minimum turning radius. Gottwald also offers models such as barge mounted pedestal mobile harbor cranes, portal harbor cranes on rails and rubber tired portal cranes for narrow wharf configurations

The phenomenal growth of mobile harbor cranes in the Northeast has been a testimonial to the competitive efforts of the manufacturers to meet the needs of the ports. In the earlier history of the mobile harbor crane in the U.S., both Gottwald and Liebherr were equally successful. As is evident by the numbers developed, the success of Liebherr clearly has the lead at the moment. Each manufacturer’s models have been improved, including capacity levels and an increase in the cranes responsiveness. The competition will definitely continue and both Liebherr and Gottwald will be in the “fray”.