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The gantry crane is the king of the shipyard

Approaching the Meyer Turku shipyard, an enormous gantry crane (a Goliath crane in professional jargon) acts as a beacon already from miles away. It has been the shipyard's landmark already for 40 years. What does the world look like from the gantry crane operator cabin? How is the gantry crane important for the shipyard's everyday operations?

The ascent to the operator cabin starts on a narrow metal ladder. Approximately at the height of a second floor, behind a heavy iron door, is an elevator. It is rugged and noisy. It just about fits three adult men. If you happen to be in a mood for a chat, you will have to raise your voice a bit. For anyone who is claustrophobic, this journey would be a nightmare.

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The gantry crane operator cabin is minimalistic, but surprisingly spacious. It has a small kitchen, and a toilet. The interior of the operator cabin shows its age. A crane operator will usually spend their entire work day in the cabin.

But we’re not completely alone here, we’re constantly talking to each other on the radio. Mostly work stuff, but there are a few jokes here and there,

said Joni Salonen, the crane operator.

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The task of the gantry crane is to transfer completed large segments the size of small houses to the dock pool, to be joined together. The significance of the crane is particularly important regarding the assembly of the ship, and the functionality of the shipyard. If, for some reason, the crane is not operational, work stops in many other departments as well.

The working day of the crane has been scheduled in advance. Schedules are somewhat flexible, but mostly, there are no changes during the same day, said Pentti Volanen, the crane operations manager.

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Crane operators are assisted by crews of four workers who attach lifting hooks. These people make sure that the attachments are secure, and using a radio, give directions to the crane operator regarding the load of the lifting hooks.

Many things have to be taken into consideration when lifting large segments weighing hundreds of tonnes. In addition to weight and the centre of gravity, the crew also have to consider the wind and its direction. Besides the human crew, the crane also has numerous gauges and surveillance cameras, which are used to monitor the lifting process. Although lifting things is routine here, no-one will compromise on safety, Volanen assured us.

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We also went to the top of the crane, taking an elevator from the operator cabin, and ascending along steep narrow stairs. At the top, more than 100 metres above sea level, the view was absolutely magnificent. A fun detail for a layman was the crane inside the crane, with which maintenance and spare parts are hoisted up for installation.

“Meyer Turku”, the writing on the main support boom of the crane is 5.5 metres high. The boom itself is 10 metres high. Viewed from the ground, they look considerably smaller. On the other hand, when seen from the top of the crane, the 200m+ Megastar in the dock pool seems surprisingly small.

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Although a new, more efficient crane is on its way, the old one will not be sent to the scrap yard. It will be modernised, and it will be placed on familiar, albeit augmented rails on the Naantali side of the facilities. From 2018, the landscape of the Meyer Turku shipyard will be dominated by two gantry cranes.

The new crane costs 35 million Euros. The lifting capacity of the new crane is 1200 tonnes, or double the amount of the existing crane’s capacity. The lifting height will also be increased by more than 10 metres, which will help us achieve even larger production figures, so this large investment is very well justified, said Janne Luukonen, the investment manager of the Meyer Turku shipyard.

During the time of the visit, it was a nice summer day, with almost no breeze. However, Volanen reminds us of other kinds of weather conditions.

Usually, you’d only have to come up here in case of any problems. And problems occur mainly if there’s ice or wind. Then, we won’t be admiring the beautiful scenery of the Turku archipelago, but we’ll be rushing to get the work done quickly.

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Meyer Turku gantry crane facts

Load:600 t
Lifting height:70 + 15 m
Lifting speed:3.6 m/min
Transfer speed:40 m/min
Manufacturing year:1976

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