Here’s how to select the right crane for specific job requirements on port infrastructure projects
Set on the southern side of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, the Canadian Forces Base (CFB) in Esquimalt Harbour is tasked with protecting Canada’s shores from Pacific threats. Originally built in the 1860s, the Esquimalt Harbour base has served Canada’s West Coast Navy operations for several generations. In 2012, our client—the Department of National Defence (DND)—officially proceeded with plans to upgrade and revitalize the naval base, developing a $1.14-billion construction plan that would enhance the facility over an 8-year period.
While our multidisciplinary team has been heavily involved in the design of the project, a part of Stantec’s scope also involves developing the performance requirements and technical specifications for the new shipyard cranes used on site. Several factors come into consideration when determining the right crane for the job. This blog will highlight the seven things to know before you buy a marine crane for your port infrastructure project.
Having a solid understanding of contemporary crane technologies and practices is critical before selecting which crane is best for specific operations.
Before beginning the selection process, it’s important that you understand crane technology and how to select the right crane. Just like any technology, the needle—or crane hook, so to speak—is always moving. Investing a little time in understanding a few important things will smooth the procurement process and help you choose the right crane for your needs. Some important topics to brush up on are:
- Crane industry procurement practices
- Current market costs
- Crane technologies and trends
- Standards for design, fabrication, installation, and commissioning
- Maintenance program options
- Spare parts recommendations
- Training protocols
Once you have a solid understanding of contemporary crane technologies and practices, you can move on to which crane is best for specific operations. Several factors come into consideration when determining the right crane for the job.
_q_tweetable:Just like any technology, the needle—or crane hook, so to speak—is always moving._q_
1. Your duty cycle
One of the first questions a crane manufacturer will ask you is: “What is the duty cycle?” The duty cycle is determined by your need and operations, so start an assessment/analysis by gathering data and usage estimates to help answer questions such as:
- Why do you need a crane?
- When and how often do you need it?
- What actions does the crane need to perform, now and in the future?
- What conditions will it be exposed to?
Each factor impacts crane design and cost, so it’s important to start with understanding your operational needs. And it’s possible that, with some operational changes to your existing cranes, you could cover your current needs and help conserve your precious capital.
2. Reach and load capacity
The next thing to consider is reach and load capacity. They impact crane design and cost but also help determine the requirements for the jetty or wharf design itself, as well as the crane’s power supply, which can be expensive. Buying additional unneeded capacity is also very expensive, and not getting the capacity you need is disastrous. So, spend time to make sure this is well understood and defined. Factors to consider include:
- Ship types, sizes, and heights
- Maximum loads and the required reach to pick or place them properly
- High- and low-water levels
The speed and movement capabilities of your crane will have a heavy impact on design.
3. Speeds and movement needs
Just like reach and load capacity, the speed and movement capabilities of your crane will have a heavy impact on design. These include simultaneous slewing, luffing, and traversing. Again, you want to ensure you order a crane that has the motion capabilities you need and that you’re not paying for capabilities that you won’t use now or in the future. Remember: your crane operators will thank you for getting this right—or be frustrated with you daily if it isn’t!
Another common feature nowadays is customization of the crane controls. With this feature, you can set up your controls to fit your day-to-day operational needs, which makes routine crane movements much easier and more efficient.
4. Lead time
One of the most important considerations when choosing a crane—or any major piece of equipment for that matter—is the lead time. Establishing lead time is a critical aspect of project planning—you need to know when you need your crane, in addition to how long it’s going to take for design, fabrication, shipping, installation, and commissioning.
There are ways to expedite the process, but they usually come at a cost. A good rule of thumb is to always assume a lead time of 18-24 months from placing the order to being operational. That way, you allow for the following processes to take place:
- Design/Engineering: 3-5 months
- Fabrication: 8-10 months
- Testing: 1-2 months
- Shipment: 2-3 months
- Installation/testing/commissioning: 2-3 months
- Training: 1 month
Check on current lead time early to avoid disappointment or additional costs.
The major components of cranes are often manufactured (and function tested) in different locations.
5. No FAT
Typically, when you’re buying large industrial equipment, the manufacturer is required to conduct a full factory acceptance test (FAT) before they ship you the product. This way, we can be confident that the equipment will work properly when it arrives.
Sometimes, FATs will even be witnessed by the owner—or their technical representatives—for even greater confidence in quality control. However, that process isn’t common (or recommended) when it comes to marine cranes. The major components of these types of cranes are often manufactured (and function tested) in different locations. For instance, the steel structure could be made in in one place while the control system is built and tested somewhere else. Only when they arrive at the customer’s site is the crane fully assembled and tested.
Requiring the supplier to assemble them in one location for testing before shipping adds considerable costs in shipping and labor—costs that far outweigh any benefits. Also, metal fatigue can occur during shipping, so it’s best to have your crane vendor do their testing on-site after everything has arrived and is ready for installation.
6. Common installation mistakes
Normally the supplier is responsible for the installation and commissioning of your new crane. They will use a combination of local construction forces and their own experts, and they’ll provide you with a detailed installation plan. You should carefully review this plan so you can better understand what they will be doing—and most importantly, what they need from you. This will help you avoid some of the common issues that plague the installation and commissioning process, including:
- The site not being ready. If other construction activities aren’t complete—or the conditions of the site aren’t suitable—it can delay the process before it even starts.
- Inclement weather slows the process. Getting the timing right is important!
- Usage restrictions slow things down. These restrictions may be unavoidable in some cases, but ensuring adequate lay-down area is available—and that the vendor can access the required locations in the shipyard—helps considerably.
- 3rd party inspectors. It’s important to engage in good and early communication with inspectors from authorities having jurisdiction. It’s in your best interest to make sure they are knowledgeable about the crane and its requirements, and that they’ll be available to make their inspections when the crane is ready.
- External power not being available/ready, or with the wrong connections. The supplier will typically rely on your power supply, so getting the details right will help avoid costly delays.
- Test weights aren’t there. The customer is normally responsible for renting test weights, so either be ready or make sure the installer has this responsibility.
Typically, when you’re buying large industrial equipment, the manufacturer is required to conduct a full factory acceptance test (FAT) before they ship you the product. That's not a good process for marine cranes.
7. Change is coming!
And finally, embrace change! Change is coming whether we like it or not. From all-electric cranes, to artificially intelligent cranes, to 5G technology—we’re seeing a lot of technological innovation in the industry. And we’re always looking for it! Whenever we discuss our client’s needs with crane vendors, we always ask about new and upcoming features. That way, we can stay ahead of the curve!
Getting it right
Before you select a crane for your port and marine project, always remember that you must have a robust, comprehensive understanding of your day to day operations. This way, you get it right the first time!
For more information about our team, visit: https://www.stantec.com/en/markets/industrial/ports-marine-terminals
About the AuthorMore Content by Dave Calder