Choosing the right container cranes: CentrePort Wellington updates its fleet



CentrePort Limited, Wellington, New Zealand


When CentrePort Wellington decided to upgrade its fleet of quayside container cranes, the New Zealand port embarked on a worldwide search to select the best cranes for the job.


One of the key drivers behind the upgrade was a desire to ‘futureproof ’ the port, by ensuring that it was well-equipped to service whatever vessels should come its way in the foreseeable future. Whilst New Zealand’s relatively small stature on the international trading stage makes it unlikely that it will ever host the largest class of container ships now plying the world’s waters, the South Pacific nation is nevertheless experiencing the global trend towards the use of larger cargo vessels. CentrePort Wellington was therefore keen to extend its quayside containerhandling capabilities beyond its existing configuration of 13-bay panamax cranes.

The port estimated the likely size of vessels it would be required to host in the coming 10-20 years, and also took stock of the year-on-year growth it was experiencing in the containerhandling arm of its business. Together, these factors led CentrePort to conclude that it would be best served by installing twin-lift, 16-bay post-panamax cranes.

Finding the right supplier

Having determined the overall size and type of cranes it was seeking, the port then set about the task of seeking out and appraising potential suppliers. Prior to doing this, CentrePort had clearly formulated the many other factors, including infrastructural, environmental and service issues, which would also play key roles in determining the most appropriate crane and supplier for its particular situation.

Foremost amongst these factors was the requirement that the new cranes be compatible with the port’s existing rail gauge and power supply. As part of its crane upgrade project, CentrePort had decided to dispense with two of its older container cranes, but its desire to retain a third existing crane meant there was no provision to alter the current rail and power set-up.

In addition to being compatible with the port’s ‘human-made’ infrastructure, the new cranes also had to be capable of interacting with a much more elemental force prevalent at CentrePort – the wind! As the port frequently experiences strong winds up to gale force, it was essential that the new cranes be able to operate safely and effectively in these conditions.

Acquiring first-hand information

Dur ing the planning phase of the crane upgrade project, CentrePort staff visited a number of international ports to observe various makes and models of container crane in operation. A team of four port representatives travelled to Shanghai, China, Felixstowe, UK, and Oakland and New York ports in the USA. The latter was a particularly relevant destination, given the similarity of the wind conditions experienced there to those typical of Wellington, New Zealand.

An important aspect of the international tours of inspection was the opportunity they afforded to talk to first-hand users of various types of container cranes. These front-line ‘interviews’ were an invaluable means of augmenting the information gleaned from visits the team also made to factories of selected crane.

Evaluating the options

Having completed all desired inspections and gathered all relevant technical specifications, CentrePort undertook a robust evaluation of the options available to it.

A critical component of this evaluation was the consideration of non-technical factors, such as the service ethic, accountability, reliability and contractual efficiency of potential suppliers, in addition to ‘nuts and bolts’ design and operating features.


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