Mammoth cranes floating to Miami
Part of the future of Port Miami’s cargo industry is on its way from China.
Four new “super post-Panamax” gantry cranes departed by ship from Shanghai a few weeks ago and are expected to arrive in Miami at the end of the September.
The larger cranes are needed for the larger cargo container vessels that will be able to pass through the expanded Panama Canal once that project is completed, slated for 2015.
Currently, Port Miami has nine cranes, including two that super post-Panamax size.
The cost of the four new cranes is about $43 million — paid from Port Miami’s capital improvement fund. The county-owned seaport operates on revenues from users — cruise lines, cargo companies and other businesses that use the port — rather than relying on tax dollars.
“The new cranes are necessary for the larger ships,” port spokeswoman Paula Musto said this week. The cranes have longer booms that “can reach across 22 containers, versus the smaller ships with fewer containers across.”
With the new cranes on the way, Port Miami sold and shipped three of its original gantry cranes in June to Colombia. The cranes were bound for Santa Marta International Terminal Co., located on the banks of the Magdalena River in Barranquilla.
The departure of the old cranes leaves room for the larger new cranes, which are part of Port Miami’s $2 billion in infrastructure improvements in preparation for the opening of the expanded Panama Canal.
In addition to the new cranes, Port Miami is dredging its main channel to 50 to 52 feet deep, constructing twin two-lane port tunnels, and opening a modern on-dock freight rail that will link the seaport directly to the US rail system.
Port officials have said the expected growth in cargo operations at the port in the years ahead will lead to the creation of thousands of jobs, locally and beyond.
However, Port Miami is one of a number of US seaports gearing up for the opening of the larger Panama Canal.
Four super post-Panamax cranes arrived last month at the Georgia Port Authority’s Garden City Terminal at the Port of Savannah, bringing that seaport’s total number of electric-powered container cranes to 25 — the most of any seaport terminal in the US, officials said.
The new cranes will “further enhance the cargo handling efficiency at the fourth-busiest container terminal in the nation,” said Georgia Port Authority Executive Director Curtis Foltz. “Combined with the largest single container terminal in North America and two Class 1 railroads on site, these cranes will make the customer experience even smoother.”
In Miami, the seaport has completed its gantry cranes “electrification” project. Officials said the newly electric-powered cranes will provide emissions-free operation, reduce maintenance and eliminate the use of diesel fuels.
Port of Miami Crane Management Inc. is responsible for the management and maintenance of the port’s cranes and container handling equipment.
In Central America, the $5 billion-plus Panama Canal expansion involves the construction of a third lane for maritime traffic, as well as the deepening and widening of the canal’s Atlantic and Pacific access channels and the installation of new lock gates, among other facets.
This week, canal officials said the project, which will double the canal’s capacity, is more than 60% complete.
“The Panama Canal expansion will enhance the value of the Panama route,” Panama Canal Administrator Jorge Quijano said in a statement. “We are focused on the third set of locks project, which is one of the key projects of the expansion program.”
Port Miami’s three old cranes sent to Colombia were made in Germany and were the first gantry cranes installed at Port Miami in 1983. Over the years, they serviced thousands of ships and moved millions of containers, officials said.
Port Miami officials liked the idea of sending the cranes to Colombia, which has become one of Miami’s largest trading partners.
The departure of the cranes coincided with the one-year anniversary of the successful implementation of the free trade agreement between Colombia and the US. Port officials said the agreement has helped increase US exports to the South American nation by 20% in the last year.
“This transfer of infrastructure [the cranes] will help support the growth of imports and exports between Port Miami and Colombia,” Port Miami Director Bill Johnson said in a statement. “We’re glad the cranes will be put to good use and hope it will assist us to continue to grow as partners in trade.”