Crane upgrades: common mistakes and new challenges

The process to upgrade cranes was first managed in the 1990’s and expanded from 2000 due to the need to improve competitiveness in container terminals. Shipping companies such as Maersk began to build enormous ships such as the Maersk Triple-E Class, with a length of 400 metres and beam of 59 metres. This type of vessel, capable of transporting 2,500 more containers than the same shipping company’s previous model, the E Class, raised capacity to a figure of 18,000 TEUs. And now we have already reached 24,000 TEUs with the load capacity of the recently launched MSC Gülsün.

After having participated in crane upgrade works from different perspectives – as owner, as contractor and as works supervisor – we have noted some easily rectifiable common mistakes the terminal is probably unaware of, as it is the first time they come to face these types of challenges.

  • What material is the crane made from?

Solutions for crane height and reach involve new bolted or welded joints, or both at the same time. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

In a real case, after trying without success to weld the attachments fitted to the legs to gain height, it was discovered that the crane’s steel composition was different to the steel of the attachments. This can be avoided with a simple prior material analysis.

  • The critical moment of elevation

To be able to insert the new material to achieve greater height and reach, the crane needs to be separated from its base and raised, creating a gap where the new insert is to be included.

The system used for this operation is usually hydraulic, and to do this the gantry girder is used as support in the best way possible. The girder was not originally designed for this operation; a fault in the hydraulic system can produce a load imbalance that increases stresses of one of the crane supports.

Deformation of the gantry girder is costly and laborious support engineering is required to replace one of the crane’s main beams.

  • The girder seems to have got a bit dented

When the crane is supported to upgrade it, the calculation for the whole hydraulic system and the forces it supports to raise the crane are normally considered, but thinking about the fact that the support zone – the gantry beam – needs to carry loads for which it is not designed is rarer.

This support zone between the lifting system and the crane requires precise local calculation. Local structural reinforcement will almost certainly avoid unpleasant surprises in the form of dents.

When we design crane upgrade work, we take these and many other factors affecting the process into account, based on our accumulated experience.

New challenges

Facing the challenge of digitisation of the port industry, we are working on fitting sensors to assets. Based on mass data capture, we contribute the necessary knowledge to generate patterns and trained algorithms to detect operating conditions that precede certain faults. The ultimate goal is to obtain a prescriptive system, to provide the client with a series of actions to be performed on a scheduled basis to prevent breakdowns during operation.

Using Industry 4.0-enabling technologies, we can now capture terabytes of data and process them, generate behavioural and predictive patterns, manufacture metal parts by 3D printing or identify behaviours using machine vision.

We have readied ourselves to guide our clients through this fourth industrial revolution

We perform STS crane heightening engineering for Noatum Container Terminal Valencia in Port of Valencia