Friday, September 21, 2018
Business

See what it's like to operate one of the 300-foot tall cranes at Port Tampa Bay (w/video)

TAMPA — If you can play a video game, you can operate one of the two $24 million cranes at Port Tampa Bay.

At least that's what Deitmar Reuten says, the engineering department manager for Ports America, the company that operates the two new cranes recently purchased and assembled at Port Tampa Bay.

The 300-foot tall Post-Panamax gantry cranes allow Port Tampa Bay to unload larger cargo containers from ships. Port officials hope they ultimately help attract bigger ships to Tampa.

[ANDRES LEIVA | Times]

Suspended about 135 feet in the air, Ports America Engineering Department manager Dietmar Reuten operates the controls of one of Port Tampa Bay's two new $24 Million container gantry cranes Tuesday during a demonstration staged as part of a tour for reporters.


The new cranes, bought brand new and assembled by ZPMC in Shanghai, a well known leader in the port industry, are a major step up from the 42-year-old gantry cranes the port used to unload container cargo, Reuten said. The new cranes are 15 stories taller than the three gantry cranes the port purchased used more than a decade ago and can handle twice the load.

"It's like comparing an old Volkswagen to a Mercedes," he said.

The enormous crane is operated by just one person who sits in a small compartment with one seat, a control board and touch screen desktop, with three glass panels around them and a see-through floor. Underneath the compartment is where the "spreader" hangs, the device that latches onto containers, lifts them off the ship and carries them to the ground.

[ANDRES LEIVA | Times]

Reuten looks to his left as he operates the crane from an air conditioned control room high above the port.


The air conditioned control room has just one touch screen desktop. It's where the crane operator can manage regular functions and stabilize any swing of the spreader if there's high wind on a particular day.

Because all the controls are digital now, Reuten said he could operate the crane remotely from his computer in his office.

A small elevator shaft that can make just about anyone claustrophobic lifts engineers and operators more than 135 feet in the air. It leads to high-up floors where the control room, server room and a storage room are located. In the storage room engineers can replace the heavy duty cables that make all the big lifting possible. There are seemingly endless flights of stairs that zig-zag up the sides of the cranes.

[ANDRES LEIVA | Times]

The new cranes, bought brand new and assembled in Shanghai, are a major step up from the 42-year-old gantry cranes the port used to unload container cargo. The new cranes are 15 stories taller than the three gantry cranes the port purchased used more than a decade ago, and can handle twice the load.


"It still has that new crane smell to it," said Wade Elliott, vice president of marketing and business development with Port Tampa Bay.

Some areas are only accessible by staff members who wear hard hats and harnesses that attach them to the equipment, because the walkway paths are so thin. The height offers cool views of downtown Tampa and the rest of the port, but can be dizzying, too.

[ANDRES LEIVA | Times]

Because all the new cranes' controls are digital, Reuten said he could operate them from the computer in his office, if he wanted.


The cranes are now operational, having arrived from China in April and assembled and tested before making their debut. They unload about 35 containers per hour, said Doug Wray, vice president of commercial accounts management for Ports America. They unload about 1,000 containers a week, but can handle four times that volume.

"We see this investment at Port Tampa Bay as a long term growth plan," Wray said.

Contact Justine Griffin at [email protected] Follow @SunBizGriffin.

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