“They’re building one in Europe that will be larger than ours,” confessed Ken Canter, Authority Executive Director. “But we will still be able to say we have the largest flat top crane in permanent service in North America.”
The spindly-legged monster towers 90 feet above the Tennessee River. The boom stretches 250 feet; the machine can heft steel cargo containers that tip the scales at up to 50 tons.
Before its advent, the Riverport couldn’t handle cargo containers, which are commonly seen riding on trucks and trains. The containers also travel on ocean-going vessels.
“We will be one of the few ports on the inland waterways other than Mobile and New Orleans, that will have the 20- and 40-foot containers as part of our product mix,” Canter said.
The new crane, painted shiny royal blue, replaced a smaller flat top crane. Dating to the 1970s, it was said to be the first flat top crane in permanent use in America.
“It had a weight limit of 20 tons and the containers weigh 27 to 30 tons each,” Canter said. “A barge can hold up to 60 20-foot containers.”
He added that as the freight hauling industry turned toward more containerized cargo, the Riverport Authority had to adapt or get left behind. “The new crane is a solid investment in our future.”
At 200 tons, the new crane is more than twice as heavy as the old one, which rose from the river on a concrete-topped platform called a marine cell.
The new crane required a larger cell. The platform is also built into the river’s mud bottom. “It rests on pilings driven down 100 feet below the surface of the river,” Canter said.
All told, the crane cost $4.7 million. “The Paducah Bank financed 57 percent of the project, Delta Regional Authority awarded a $200,000 grant, and Riverport funds were utilized for the balance,” Canter said.
The original crane was built by the Linden Company in Sweden and the new one by Linden Comansa, a Spanish firm. “There are no American companies that manufacture flat top cranes,” Canter explained.
He added that when the new crane was finished it was fully assembled at the Spanish factory, then taken down and loaded onto a cargo ship for the trip across the Atlantic to Savannah, GA. The pieces traveled in the same kind of containers it lifts at the Riverport Authority.
“It was trucked to our facility and was assembled like a giant erector set,” Canter said. “We are excited to have it.”
Aquarius Marine of Cincinnati built the cell, according to Canter. Herlocher/Heede Southeast of Pineville, NC, supplied the crane and W.R. Coles and Associates of Nashville oversaw the design and construction management phase of the project, according to Canter.