Crane carnage shuts Felixstowe

FELIXSTOWE was shovelling up the pieces on Monday after two box cranes collapsed into mangled metal after a vessel delivering three new gantry container cranes to the UK port broke free of its moorings in high winds at the weekend.

The semi-submersible Zhen Hua 23, with a total of five new cranes on board, made contact with the dockside of Felixstowe’s Landguard Terminal at around 2am on Saturday morning, a time when operations at the south east port had been suspended due to 80mph gusts sweeping the area. No one was injured during the incident.

It is understood that a bulk crane on board the Zhen Hua 23 made contact with the number two Landguard crane, causing it to collapse. A second Languard crane collapsed soon after. Both Landguard cranes are a write-off.

A spokesperson for Hutchison Port Holdings, owner of Felixstowe, said that the ZPMC vessel was transporting three gantry cranes for Felixstowe, as well as one gantry crane for Thamesport. The fifth crane was heading to an undisclosed Scandinavian port.

The Hutchison spokesman stressed that the port’s Far East container operations on the Trinity Terminal were unaffected by the collapse and that all four container cranes on the Zhen Hua 23 were undamaged.
The container cranes on the ship are believed to be super post-panamax equipment able to span vessels 22 boxes wide, and each with an estimated value of £4m.

The Hutchison spokesperson said: “The cranes on the Languard terminal were not new, in fact they were 24 years and 12 years old. They worked at the shallower berths, mainly on short sea services. 

“These are just two cranes out of a total of 28 at Felixstowe. The deep sea Far East container services are not affected by this incident.”

Contingency plans were being put into place to handle services which normally call at the affected Landguard terminal. 

The high winds on Friday night and Saturday morning also knocked over some empty container stacks at Felixstowe, again without causing disruption to box services, said the spokesman.

Those same high winds saw UK mainline passenger train services severely disrupted over the weekend after a total of seven empty maritime containers were blown off two freight trains in separate incidents.

A Freightliner train lost five empty boxes while travelling from Tilbury to Cokebridge early on Saturday morning. A Fastline train lost two empty boxes during its journey from Thamesport to Doncaster. Rail inspectors are investigating both incidents, which are being blamed on the weather conditions.

Saturday’s events at Felixstowe have echoes of an incident in early February when a ZPMC crane carrier, the Zhen Hua 10, was grounded overnight off Rotterdam in high winds, again with five new gantry cranes on board.

The Zhen Hua 10 was successfully towed undamaged off the sandbank. In a preliminary report, the Dutch inspectorate said
 that, given the “wind sensitive” high cranes, it was questionable whether the Chinese ship had enough engine power.