Weeks Marine of Cranford, New Jersey, USA, began life more than 75 years ago as the Weeks Stevedoring Company. It provided bulk stevedoring services in the New York harbour using two steam powered cranes mounted on wooden hulls. Today it has more than 35 floating cranes in its fleet, ranging in lift capacity from 25 to 500 US ton.

The largest crane in the fleet is the 500 ton (454t) capacity Weeks 533, which is also the largest floating revolving heavy lift crane on the east coast of the USA, according to Weeks.

The Weeks 533 was originally called the Marine Boss and was built in 1965 for Murphy Pacific Marine to be used in the construction of the San Mateo bridge in California. It was bought in 1988 by Weeks from J. Ray McDermott & Co. to be used for spare parts and sat idle for nearly 10 years. As requirements change over time, Weeks Marine saw a growing number of opportunities where a re-commissioned Marine Boss would be of value in project cargo handling as well as heavy lift tasks, besides being an asset in the company’s marine construction division. Over the next 18 months, Weeks crews gutted and refitted the crane house, re-engineered and replaced the electrical system, re-piped air and water lines, installed new engines and generators, overhauled hoists, cleaned out and renewed the hull, and finally sandblasted and painted the hull and crane in Weeks’ colours of red and white.

And so to work

The Weeks 533 recently assisted in moving the vessels to be used at the polypropylene plant site of Tosco Corporation’s Bayway refinery. Among the vessels moved were three reactors weighing between 163t and 363t, 46m long and measuring up to 6.4m in diameter. Also moved were some surge and purge bins and various other pieces of equipment.

The vessels and equipment arrived on the cargo ship MV Daneilla in Port Newark, New Jersey. Although the refinery site could be reached by water by going along the Arthur Kill and Rahway Rivers, there were several insurmountable problems in doing so. To reach a point where there was sufficient draught available for offloading from the ship, the vessels would have had to cross the New Jersey Turnpike on a bridge which was unable to support the load. The site is only 16km from the port but the size and weight of the vessels ruled out moving them by truck. So more innovative methods were needed and Weeks was called to assist.

The vessels and equipment were first unloaded onto Weeks’ barges and then towed by tugs a short distance to Weeks’ Greenville yard for staging. At the appropriate time the 533 floating crane first hoisted special transporters supplied by Supor Trucking & Rigging onto shallow draught barges and then set the actual piece to be moved onto the transporter. Special adjustable spreaders had been built by Weeks for the lift.

The barges were then towed down the Arthur Kill to the Rahway River to the unloading site where ramps to the barges were set, enabling Supor’s tractors to hitch up to the transporter to continue the movement to the Bayway plant. Even though the site was only 2.4km away from here, it required assistance from the local utility companies, Office of Emergency Management, and Linden police to move overhead cables and re-route traffic.

Without the 533, says Weeks, the vessels would have to have been assembled on site at considerable additional cost.