Strength and reach

25 June 2018

Sotiris Kanaris visits Huisman’s facility in Schiedam and learns about the company’s new offshore and land based products.

Family-owned Huisman was founded in 1929 and started off as a steel construction company. A turning point came in the 1980s, when the company increased the complexity of the steel structures it delivered: an example was the 1,600t Taklift 4 floating crane.

The company now focuses on the design and manufacturing of heavy construction equipment, with its product range subdivided into six categories: cranes, pipelay equipment, drilling equipment, winches, vessel designs and special projects. Apart from the facility in the Netherlands, the company has opened manufacturing facilities in Brazil, China and the Czech Republic and sales support offices in the USA, Norway and Singapore.

“A large segment of our turnover is coming from foreign markets. It has always been in our blood to look over the borders and to accommodate the needs of the worldwide offshore oil and gas and heavy lifting market. Since the fall in oil price the offshore wind sector has been a very good source of valuable projects,” says Timon Ligterink, regional sales manager. One of Huisman’s new innovations for the offshore wind energy market is the 1,600mt Leg Encircling Crane, which was installed onboard Van Oord’s offshore installation vessel Aeolus in February.

This crane is designed to be used on jack-up vessels. The crane is built around the jack-up leg and if required the boom can be stored around the other leg, saving deck space.

Cees van Veluw, product manager for cranes at Huisman, says: “We have produced the largest leg encircling crane in the world. We really focused on the integration of the crane on the vessel, we have developed our own slew bearing system capable of coping with all the misalignments or deformations of jack up barges.”

The Huisman crane on Aeolus replaced one from another supplier, nearly doubling the lifting capacity.

“The crane we installed weighs about 15% more than the previous one, while lifting capacity went up from 900t to 1600t,” Van Veluw says.

The crane will enable Van Oord to install bigger and heavier foundations and turbines for offshore wind farms. Ligterink says turbines and their components are getting bigger, making companies in the field look for bigger vessels and cranes. “The cranes are getting stronger and have longer booms to get enough lifting height.”

The maintenance market also has to cope with larger turbines; which Ligterink says has forced a number of small jack up vessels out of business because they lack the hook height to work on new wind farms. “To exchange gear boxes and blades you need a long boom length, not high capacity.”

To address the new challenges of this market Huisman developed the Foldable Offshore Crane. “The idea is to have the extensive lifting height but in transit the boom can be folded away,” Ligterink explains.

The foldable boom results in a very small footprint when in storage position. Huisman says the folding mechanism leads to a much lighter crane compared to telescopic cranes, which simplifies inspection and maintenance as the lifting hooks are stored inboard. By slightly tilting the knuckle, extra boom clearance is created. “By building a lightweight crane, we are able to retrofit it into existing jack up vessels which are currently struggling to cope with higher lifting heights,” explains Van Veluw.

Finding inspiration

Talking about the process of designing these pieces of equipment Ligterink says that clients or Huisman itself identify a problem and the engineers look at ways to solve it.

Sometimes the company’s staff come up with “proactive innovations” like the 3D printed offshore crane hook. “The 3D printed hook didn’t come from a concrete question of a client, we seized the opportunity to create a new way of making hooks,” says Van Veluw.

The hook was designed by the R&D team in the Netherlands and printed in Huisman’s manufacturing facility in the Czech Republic. The 3D printing technique ‘Wire & Arc

Additive Manufacturing’ (WAAM) was employed to produce a large four-prong hook, with a printed weight close to 1,000kg.

In the near future Huisman aims to further improve the WAAM process by reducing the cost price for this technique and to increase manufacturing capabilities up to items of 2,500kg printed weight.

Huisman also played an important role in the development of some of the world’s largest onshore cranes, like Mammoet’s PTC ring cranes.

“We further improved our range of land based cranes with our compact ringer crane portfolio, this way we are able to deliver the largest crane in the world and beat today’s largest ringer cranes, while still keeping the floor space as low as possible. We are focusing on being compact, lightweight, containerised and self-erecting, in order to minimise the requirements for additional mobile crane capacity as much as possible and to be cost effective.”

The compact ringer crane range comprises seven models with lifting capacities ranging from 2,400mt to 5,000mt. Compared to a conventional crawler type crane, the Compact Ringer Crane requires only 25% of the footprint, which substantially increases its area of application. Other benefits of these land cranes are their scalable modular design and that they are 100% electric powered.

With many new products launched and others in the pipeline, this will be a busy period for the newly appointed CEO Theo Bruijninckx. The appointment followed Joop Roodenburg’s decision to step down as the company’s CEO to fulfil the role of president.

Joop Roodenburg said: ”Since 1981, Huisman has been a family owned business. I have taken over from my father and my wish is to hand over the company to the next generation. I am 67 now and want to step into a new role which allows me to fully focus on innovative technology for our current and new markets.”

“We have been working with Theo for almost a year now and are convinced that he will further build on a solid and more structured foundation for our company. Besides his proven experience in a sector relevant to our business, we share the same conviction that innovation is key for the success of Huisman.”

The Aeolus Leg Encircling Crane installation
The Foldable Offshore Crane for offshore wind turbine maintenance
Huisman’s newly designed range Compact Ringer Cranes, not in production yet, includes land cranes with a capacity from 2,500mt to 5,000mt.