By William Hryb

With much anticipation, the new shore crane arrived on board the Antigua, Bermuda-registered 12,782-tonne cargo ship MV BBC Delaware, docking at Thunder Bay’s Keefer Terminal. The arrival marked a new way of conducting business at the Lake Superior port.

In an announcement 16 months ago, Northern Development, Mines and Forestry Minister Michael Gravelle revealed that the Ministry had accepted Thunder Bay Port Authority’s application for a one million dollar contribution towards a new three million dollar crane. The grant came from the Ontario government’s Northern Heritage Fund with the balance of the $3 million cost being the responsibility of Thunder Bay Port Authority.

Thunder Bay Port Authority officials located the crane in Stockton, California, where it had originally been purchased by a local stevedoring company, but was never erected or used. With an eye for a good deal, the crane was purchased. It had custom-designed outrigger pads to fit the dimensions of the dock in California. Fortunately, the dimensions matched those of the dock in Thunder Bay and no adjustments were required. At the time, the MV BBC Delaware was transiting the California coast on its way to deliver cargo from Thailand to the Great Lakes. Jan Beringer of Rohde & Liesenfeld Canada was instrumental in matching the availability of the vessel with the load to be carried to Thunder Bay. The ship veered course and docked at the port of Stockton where the crane was loaded and carried through the Panama Canal, and up through the St. Lawrence Seaway.

The crane is a Liebherr LHM 320 Mobile Harbour Crane with a capacity of 104 tonnes at 18 metres reach and has the ability to clam bulk cargo at a rate of 1,100 tonnes per hour. Controls of all the working movements are electric by means of two self-centering hand-levers. All crane motions are infinitely variable by modulating the axial pistons pumps by corresponding movement of hand levers. Vaso Popovic, Manager of Logistec Stevedoring is excited about the possibilities the new crane has to offer. “The new equipment is great for handling bulk commodities, but also can manage containers, and breakbulk like steel and forest products”, Popovic said.

“Having the distinction of being the only crane of its kind in the Great Lakes system bodes well for Thunder Bay and its future port capabilities,” Popovic added. Manager Dave Bryson of Empire Stevedoring at Thunder Bay was just as enthusiastic, saying, “it will benefit the Port in general and attract new business.” Adds Dave, “The crane will make the handling of wind-energy cargo destined for Western Canada more efficient.”

Tim Heney, Port CEO, doesn’t mince words about the new acquisition. “The new machine represents a major step toward modernizing cargo-handling at the port of Thunder Bay,” Heney stated. “It reflects our long-term commitment to the Seaway route as a supply chain to Western Canada … the equipment is state of the art with the capability to handle project cargo, breakbulk, containers and bulk materials efficiently.”

Fabmar Metals Inc., an industrial and marine fabrication and machining company at the port, has been contracted to assist in assembling the new port crane. The fabrication company has been working 12 to 14 hours per day, 7 days a week to get the crane up and running. Brad Savela, General Manager of Fabmar is energized by the Port Authority’s investment, saying, ”We are proud to be able to work with the Port on projects like this and help put Port of Thunder Bay on the map as a North American destination. Savela believes that the crane will attract business to the port from markets around the world that would never have looked at Thunder Bay as a viable alternative.  ”There are many exciting things happening right now for the City of Thunder Bay and the addition of the crane will only help make the future of our port and city even brighter” .