The marine cargo crane is an essential component of all maritime operations, particularly for the cargo shipping industry. Cranes are used in the port to load ships, onboard ships to move cargo (as well as life boats), and on off-shore platforms and oil rigs. Marine cargo cranes can be installed on the quay where the ship is docked or on the ship itself. The most common uses are moving equipment and loading cargo, but cranes are also used extensively in undersea research and exploration, on oil rigs, as well as in search and rescue operations and subsurface equipment placement and recovery. Because they are used so often and are such an important part of a ship’s service, marine cargo crane maintenance should be performed regularly.
Ship Cargo Cranes Are Unique
Although similar in design and function to the cranes used in strictly land-based environments, marine cargo cranes are specifically designed and manufactured to operate in much more challenging conditions. Exposure to the corrosive effects of salt water combined with exposed locations that are continuously subjected to strong winds are constants.
In shipping ports, as well as on the ships themselves, space is always at a premium and the ability to operate in close proximity to other equipment and structures is critical. Additionally, ship-board cranes must be designed to deal with the constant motion of the ship, as well as seabed suction combined with dynamic loading. Because of these challenges, marine cargo crane maintenance is necessary to keep this equipment functioning at peak performance.
Typical Marine Cargo Crane Configurations
Marine cargo cranes come in a wide variety of configurations to suit a number of different applications and requirements. Although there are many variations — as well as custom-designed cranes — here are the most common types found in marine cargo environments:
- Knuckle Boom Crane — With fewer joints inherent in the design of the knuckle boom crane, this piece of equipment is generally easier to maintain than some other cargo crane configurations. The knuckle boom crane is typically installed on platforms or ships with large deck areas. This type of crane is best suited for loading and unloading.
- Telescopic Boom Crane — The telescopic boom crane uses a winch as the primary lifting force which is then fed through a hydraulic arm that can be extended and retracted. This results in a linear lift configuration that is easier to control than an articulating knuckle boom crane and is also capable of holding heavier loads for longer periods of time.
- Foldable Telescopic Boom Crane — As the name implies, the foldable telescopic boom crane can be folded in order to save deck or dock space. Primarily used on boats and ships, the foldable telescopic boom crane adds space saving to the same overall functionality as the standard boom crane.
- Stiff Boom Crane — Typically used for general cargo functions where space is not an issue and the job requires only basic functionality, the stiff boom crane uses a fixed-length boom coupled with a winch for lifting. Due to its relative simplicity, a stiff boom crane is generally less expensive upfront, and requires less expensive maintenance procedures over its lifespan.
- Steel wire ropes — In terms of maintenance, steel wire ropes must be lubricated along the full length of the rope. The pulley and winch drum must also be lubricated, along with any other parts that contact the steel wire rope. The rope must also be frequently inspected for excessive wear and tear, as well as visual damage.
- Rotational parts — The hardware and components that allow the crane to rotate are typically located in the base structure, and include sheaves, bearings and slew rings, to name several. It is essential that all of the rotational parts are inspected regularly for damage and wear, and that all of the components are lubricated regularly.
- Hydraulic systems — All of the component machinery in the crane’s hydraulic systems should be periodically inspected and evaluated. This includes the actuator, pump, motor, accumulator, and valves, as well as any other functional elements of the overall system. Each component should be inspected for serviceability, and general wear and tear, especially cracking.
- Hydraulic fluids and filters — Hydraulic fluid levels and filters should be maintained according to the manufacturer’s specifications, including both topping off, draining and replacement of both the filter and the fluid at specified intervals.
- Brakes — Crane brakes must be regularly inspected to determine the thickness of the brake pad and serviced according to the manufacturer’s specs.
Basics of Marine Cargo Crane Maintenance
Due to the many different ship cargo crane manufacturers in the shipping industry today, combined with the many product configurations and options those manufacturers offer, it is important that technicians tasked with marine cargo crane maintenance are highly trained and experienced with the equipment they are supporting. Maintaining compliance with both governmental regulations and the manufacturers’ maintenance schedules are essential to not only the uninterrupted operation of an organization’s cranes, but also to the safety of all of those who operate and work near the machines.
Taking into account the suggested manufacturer and equipment-specific maintenance and service guidelines, following are marine cargo crane maintenance requirements that generally apply to just about all ship cargo cranes:
This list is intended simply as a guideline for marine cargo crane maintenance. When servicing a ship’s crane, as well as any piece of equipment that works in conjunction with it, don’t take anything for granted. All of the components of the crane, whether they have been listed here or not, should be included in the preventative maintenance program.
Always Follow the Manufacturer’s Specifications
Because every manufacturer does things a little differently, it’s important to follow your equipment manufacturer’s maintenance directives and specifications precisely as defined. This is much more than just a warranty issue; not following the manufacturer’s recommendations can cause equipment breakdowns or worse, a catastrophic failure.
Marine Cargo Crane Maintenance from a Reputable Hydraulic Repair Company
Regardless of the type of marine cargo crane in use, our fleet is equipped and stocked to service it. MAC technicians receive comprehensive and ongoing training in order to provide our clients the service they deserve. If you need hydraulic equipment repaired or are looking for a preventative maintenance program, contact us today.