A Year of UK Lifting

10 June 2020


Many lifting projects came to fruition in the UK in the past 12 months. Some were large, some were small, some were complex; some were just of interesting or unusual loads. Here Julian Champkin describes just a few of them.

A large sea-borne barge-to-shore lift took place at Tilbury docks, 22 miles down the Thames from London. Tilbury is the major port for London and is also the largest multi-modal port in the South East of the UK. Cargoes arrive by ro-ro, container, grain and bulk vessels; it is also a centre for cruise liners.

A new port, Tilbury2, is being added, with a roll on–roll off facility that will become the UK’s largest unaccompanied ferry port and the country’s biggest construction processing hub. In November 2019 a steel bridge that will allow trucks to reach the jetty and ro-ro vessels was towed 135 nautical miles from Rotterdam to the site—a process that took 24 hours—and was lifted into place by a floating crane.

The 360t bridge measures 54m x 15m x 5m. It was transported by the Hapo pontoon H-332 and a supporting tug. Following closely behind in convoy was the Matador 3 seagoing floating sheerleg crane, again with a supporting tug. The Matador, owned and operated by Bonn & Mees of Rotterdam, has a lifting capacity of 1,800t. Port of London pilots were on board when it entered the Thames Estuary and remained throughout the lifting operations.

The initial lift was carried out with barge and crane moored at the jetty, parallel to the shore; Matador then propelled itself, carrying the bridge, to an orientation at right angles to the shore and manoeuvred into position to lower the bridge onto its two abutments, one on the landside of the flood defences, the other on the foreshore. The approach bridge is the first of three components of the new facility, which opens this year.

Another notable dockside infrastructure lift took place at Felixstowe, which handles almost half of the country’s containerised trade. 18m berths have recently been dredged there, to accommodate modern container mega vessels. To unload these larger, taller, ships ten of the 51 ship-to-shore cranes at the port’s Trinity terminal needed to be placed on longer supporting legs, to be high enough to reach over the containers stacked on the decks.

The cranes first needed to be moved to a temporary location for the upgrade work, since performing the heightening procedure in their normal positions would have affected the productivity of the port.

Five of the cranes weighed 1,530t and five weighed 1,650t. ALE, now acquired and operating under the Mammoet brand, performed the moving operations.

Each crane in turn was transported out of its row to the upgrade location. For the lighter cranes ALE used 80 axle lines of Scheuerle SPMT in four-file 20 configuration; the heavier ones took 88 axle lines in four-file 22 configuration.

A custom-designed transport frame supported the cranes as they were transported and as they were jacked-up for the heightening work to take place. Using a single support structure for both operations removed the need to transfer the cranes between structures and saved time.

One by one the cranes were jacked up to heights of 6m or 10m, depending on their required final elevation. ALE’s Mega Jack 800 system in a four-tower configuration performed the lifts quickly and safely and minimised working at height. Following their upgrade the cranes were jackeddown and then moved back again to their original positions in the row.

The upgrade means that the port can now accept larger vessels, helping it towards a predicted doubling in capacity by 2030.

Lifting In Tight Spaces

Some lifts are notable not for size but for lifting in constricted spaces. Limited space is often an issue when lifting at solar farms. Unlike wind farms they do not involve heavy lifting at great heights, but sites are off-road and frequently on soft ground which, particularly in winter, does not lend itself to heavy plant movement. When a 6t transformer failed deep within a solar farm in north Norfolk, Cadman Cranes of Colchester were awarded the contract for providing emergency replacement of the plant.

The faulty transformer was more than a mile from any hard standing. It needed to be extracted from its container, transported back to a waiting recovery vehicle and replaced with a brand-new unit. It would have to be picked and carried on particularly soft terrain, with no damage to the delicate, expensive unit, and keeping specified safe clearance from the overhead power lines that crossed the site at various points.

Cadman Cranes felt they had an advantage at tender stage as being the only company with the right crane. They nickname their ACC2050 Compact Crawler Cranes the ‘Thunderbird’. These cranes were designed by Cadman themselves; they took a crawler base from a 13t excavator, mounted an eight-section lorry-loader knuckleboom on it and added outriggers to give a machine that can lift 8.4t at 4.7m radius; with the 5m x 5m outrigger base it can lift a tonne at 22m. The jib end can also depress to reach 8m below ground level. “Because of that we saw the opportunity to attach a clamshell grab to the end of the boom and we now have a strong market within the waste industries clearing remote tanks and ditches of grit and anaerobic digestion waste,” says managing director Matt Waddingham.

The machines can fit in the tightest of spaces and on the most unsuitable ground conditions.

They have steel-reinforced 500mm rubber track pads, which were able to negotiate the soft ground of the site; the machine’s width of just 2.5m let it get in among the rows of panels. The 6t pick and carry was no problem for this unique machine, and the restricted headroom of 4.8m under the power lines was achieved safely with ease. Remote control allowed the operator to have eyes on the load at every stage of the lift. The unit removal and installation became a breeze.

Another confined-space lifting operation was needed for the new £9.8m Bristol University Humanities hub. This is a high-level architectural project, which joins Grade II listed Victorian villa buildings with a modern new addition within the university’s grounds.

The two-storey steel frame structure infills space at the rear of the properties to create learning areas, a new gallery space, virtual museum and exhibition areas. A green roof, photovoltaics, and natural ventilation elements are designed to provide BREEAM excellent performance rating; the building is future proofed with the ability to connect into a district heating system.

The challenge was, though, that this was a small urban site, surrounded by period buildings, that left little margin for error.

Bennetts Cranes of Bristol provided a Jost JTL 158.6 luffing jib tower crane, erected freestanding at 24m with a 45m jib with capacity to lift a maximum of 6t at 23.7m.

Many reasons, say Bennetts, contributed to the choice of the hydraulic luffer; crucial was that these cranes have short out of service radius and can be parked in free slew at almost vertical to avoid oversailing nearby properties. They require less power and create lower emissions, and they are able to operate well in small spaces. Completion was in October 2019.

Similar small-site restrictions faced AGD Equipment when they supplied two crawler cranes to Ivor King Piling for a lifting task in London’s Battersea. The contract was to install a sheet pile retaining wall directly alongside the railway line in order to free up land for Network Rail to use for development. The site was extremely small and required the right size cranes for the space constraints.

The contractor used two Giken super crush silent pilers to install the sheet piles, and AGD Equipment supplied two crawler cranes to service them. Each crane had to pitch piles for the silent pilers to install, along with other duties such as unloading piles from delivery lorries, lifting the Giken, and so on.

The cranes used were a Sennebogen 6100HD 100t lattice boom crawler with virtual wall system and tilting raising cab, which was chosen for the heavy lifts and its ability to reach to the furthest points of the site, and a 55t Marchetti Roma telescopic boom crawler crane, again with virtual wall system and tilting cab. This had the ability to work with its tracks retracted in a very tight corridor to service the silent pilers with piles.

Both cranes needed virtual wall systems because of the close proximity of the live railway line.

The system prevents the crane from infringing the air spaces necessary for safety of the rail network.

Two Kobelco CKE800G crawler cranes, part of the Cementation Skanska plant fleet, are currently providing piling assistance in Battersea, at a build-to-rent development.

Residential property developer Telford Homes’ design and build contract with Henderson Park and Greystar Real Estate Partners involves the delivery of 894 build-to- rent homes across two blocks at Nine Elms Park, Battersea.

The development, part of the Battersea Nine Elms regeneration area, is a former Royal Mail depot and will create approximately 60,000sqm of residential space across two distinct buildings alongside retail and community space. The first homes are expected to be delivered in 2022 with full completion in 2024.

Cementation Skanska’s contract, for the design and construction of 306 units of bearing piles across the two blocks, saw the two cranes arrive on site in September 2019 in an out-of-hours delivery on low loaders.

Tracks and ballast weight were left on during transport, with the jib arriving on a separate flat-bed truck.

Once unloaded, the CKE800Gs were then assembled by the company’s in-house plant fitters. Cementation supplemented the CKE800G’s on-board camera system, which provides a 360° view around the machine, with its own on-site safety camera system, as well as a hi-vis physical barrier around the crane to prevent anyone entering the slew zone.

The CKE800Gs are handling plant and materials for the piling works, with the heaviest item to be lifted weighing 14.8t at a maximum distance of 30m. To carry out the work, both cranes have been rigged with a main boom only (main 32t hook block and single line). The maximum placement lift height for the 15m-tall bentonite silos that are lifted into the vertical from a horizontal position is 18m.

Supporting Communities

Some much lighter lifts are noteworthy because of object being lifted is socially important.

As part of a campaign to deter knife crime in their city Hullbased crane company Hird lifted a sculpture made from confiscated knife and sword blades into a local park.

The Knife Angel was created in 2016 from more than 100,000 blades, including knives and swords, supplied by more than 37 police forces across the UK. It arrived in the East Yorkshire city from Liverpool, where the sculpture was previously on display. Hird’s Grove GMK 3050 mobile crane, which has a maximum safe working load of 50t, was ready, with a crane operator and an appointed person, to control the process of lifting the sculpture into place. It was combined with a Valla 90E pick and carry crane to carry out a tandem lift, supported by a Genie Z45/25 RT access boom, also supplied by Hird.

Together they placed the 27ft-tall Knife Angel on a specially-constructed plinth in Queens Gardens, where it stayed for a month supporting a #NoMoreKnives campaign. Hird donated its service free of charge to support the initiative that has been organised by Humberside Police and local charities. While the sculpture was on display, Humberside police visited schools across Hull and beyond to encourage young people not to carry knives.

Another community effort was supported by Ainscough Crane Hire. Their Highlands depot has lifted a boiler back into a restored steam engine for local enthusiasts.

Strathspey Railway station is run by a volunteer team of five who for nearly 20 years have been working to restore a number of steam engines at the station, including the LMS Black 5, No. 5025.

The 5025 was built in 1934 at Vulcan Foundry, Newton-le-Willows and was withdrawn from public use in 1968. Ainscough was contacted in October 2019 to plan a programme to lift the boiler of the engine from the tender where it was being restored into the frame of the engine. In March this year a team of three arrived at the station for the lift.

Trains were heavily restricted on the day to allow the team to carry out their role safely. Icy conditions in the Highlands meant the crew had to be careful when driving their machinery along slippery road surfaces. But using a Liebherr LTM 1100/2 with 26t counterweight, and a 19m boom, the boiler was able to be removed from its former tender.

The load was then held while the tender was shunted down to the workshop for future work on it. Meanwhile the refurbished main steam engine frame and chassis was moved down to the lift area to receive the boiler. It was successfully installed, and all being well, the 5025 will be back in steam by summer 2021.

Another piece of history was lifted early this year. May 2020 saw the 80th anniversary of Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of the British Army from France by a fleet of ‘little ships’ that lifted them from the beaches of Dunkirk. Dorian, one of those little ships, has been in restoration in Southampton since 2011.

Built for the Royal Navy in Portsmouth Dockyard for the Royal Navy over 100 years ago in 1915, she served in World War 1 as part of the Grand Fleet. She was sold in 1937 and converted to a private cruising yacht before she was recalled in WW2 helping the Dunkirk evacuation.

In January 2020, with restoration completed, the ship, which weighed 9.7t, was lifted back into the sea to attend the anniversary commemorative events.

King Lifting Crane Hire performed the lift with their 60t Liebherr LTM1060-3.1 all terrain crane. The crane has a 48m boom and its compact dimensions allowed it to manoeuvre easily on the dockside. SafetyLiftinGear of Bristol provided the necessary lifting equipment to support the vessel, in particular a Modulift CMOD Spreader Frame, able to carry 16t. The first challenge came on the morning of the lift, when the M27 was closed, calling for some ingenuity to get the crane to the site on time.

Mother Nature decided to throw in an extra challenge as the wind started to pick up extra care was needed to ensure that the boat was held and lifted correctly. The four lifting points of the spreader frame gave the stability that was required.

The lift went ahead as planned, Dorian returned to sea once again, and the ship was able to take its part in the commemoration. As Karl Chapple, depot manager for SafetyLiftinGear, said, “It was great to work on a project that had played such an important part in history.” 

The Matador 3 floating sheerleg crane, owned and operated by Bonn & Mees of Rotterdam, has lifted a 360t bridge into place for the construction of the new Tilbury2 port.
Cadman Cranes of Colchester has used its ACC2050 compact crawler crane to replace a 6t transformer at a UK solar farm.
Bennetts Cranes of Bristol provided a Jost JTL 158.6 luffing jib tower crane for the construction of the Bristol University Humanities hub.
A 55t Marchetti Roma CW55.40 telescopic boom crawler from AGD Equipment’s fleet was used for the installation a sheet pile retaining wall in Battersea, London.
Two Kobelco CKE800G crawler cranes, part of the Cementation Skanska plant fleet, are currently providing piling assistance at a build-to-rent development in Battersea.
Ainscough used its Liebherr LTM 1100/2 to lift a boiler back into a restored steam engine at Strathspey Railway station.
King Lifting Crane Hire used its Liebherr LTM1060-3.1 allterrain crane with a Modulift CMOD spreader frame to lift a restored ship for the 80th anniversary of Operation Dynamo.