New “super” cranes begin work at Port of Baltimore
Wednesday, 27 February 2013 15:56

Cranes part of multi-year expansion plan

by Nicole Rodman

    Following their much-heralded arrival last June, four new supersized container cranes are now up and running at the Port of Baltimore.
    The Super Post-Panamax cranes were delivered to the port by the Chinese ship Zhen-Hua 13.
    Following several months of assembly and testing, the cranes began work at the end of January.
    According to Mark Montgomery, president and CEO of Ports America Cheasapeake (which ordered and operates the cranes for the Port of Baltimore), the process of getting the cranes operational began with the delicate task of unloading the cranes from the Zhen-Hua 13.
    Following what Montgomery called the “most delicate and concerning” part of the operation, the cranes were put into position and assembled by the manufacturers, under the supervision of Ports America personnel.
    Once assembled, the cranes were tested and put through preliminary exercises to ensure that they were functioning properly.
    Next, an inspection by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was conducted to ensure the safety of the cranes.
    Once OSHA cleared the cranes for operation, they were put through their paces with a 30-hour endurance test.
    Finally, as Montgomery explained in an interview on Monday, port longshoremen were trained to operate the cranes and the machinery was put into operation.
    The entire process, from arrival to operational status, took about six months.
    Now that the cranes are up and running, they represent a huge leap forward for operations at the Port of Baltimore.
    At 400 feet tall, the new cranes are significantly larger than the port’s older cranes, with the ability to handle far more cargo.
    While the older cranes could handle 37 containers per hour, the new larger cranes can move 50 containers an hour.
    The 1,150-ton electric cranes are able to reach 22 container widths across a ship, allowing the port to handle larger ships than it could with the older cranes.
    The new Super Post-Panamax cranes are the last part of a multi-year expansion project designed to allow the Port of Baltimore to handle the new class of Super Post-Panamax ships able to carry three times more cargo that traditional ships.
    In addition to the four $40 million cranes, Ports America Cheapeake has also added a new 50-foot berth and dredged 50 feet down to create room for the new larger ships to approach and dock.
    These improvements are in anticipation of the completion of the Panama Canal expansion project, set to be finished by 2015.
    With the assembly of the Super Post-Panamax cranes, Baltimore is the second East Coast port with the capability to handle the new larger superships.
    With the addition of the new cranes, the Port of Baltimore has a valuable competitive edge over other East Coast ports.
    As Mongtomery explained, while the Panama Canal expansion will not be completed until 2015, the operators of the Super Post-Panamax ships are already planning which ports they will want to ship goods to.
    With its renovations complete, the Port of Baltimore is in an ideal position to make deals with many of these shipping lines.
    Meanwhile, other large ports along the East Coast, such as those in New York and New Jersey, are still struggling to raise the funds needed to complete expansion projects of their own.
    Just a few years ago, the Port of Baltimore was in a similar spot, unable to afford the expansions neccessary to accommodate the larger ships.
    Thanks to a 50-year agreement between the Maryland Port Administration and Ports America Chesapeake in 2010, the project was able to go forward.
    Under the terms of the $1.3 billion partnership, Ports America handles daily operations at the Seagirt Marine Terminal.
    As per the agreement, Ports America agreed to build the 50-foot berth and purchase the cranes.
    While the agreement has allowed the port to upgrade its facilities, it also means more revenue for the state.
    Under the agreement, the state receives a payment of $15 annually for each container handled beyond 500,000 containers.
    Over the course of the 50-year contract, this could translate to $750 million in revenue for the state, which is good news both for the state and the local economy right here in Dundalk.