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Four new port cranes arrive in Port of Baltimore, part of multimillion dollar expansion

After a little over two-month trek around the world from where they were made in Shanghai, traversing the Indian Oean and around the Cape of Good Hope, taking a pit stop off the coast of the Atlantic while Hurricane Ida laid siege to the eastern United States, and halting traffic on the Bay Bridge and Key Bridge early Thursday morning, four container cranes finally arrived at their new home in the Port of Baltimore

The towering cranes sailed up the Chesapeake Bay and under the bridges aboard the 240-meter-long Zhen Hua 24 before making their final stop Thursday at the Seagirt Marine Terminal.

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Purchased by Ports America Chesapeake, which runs the terminal under a long-term lease with the state, the massive cranes will allow longshoremen to unload two even larger and wider container ships at once.

“It is absolutely wonderful. They shipped in June. This has been a long planning process,” Ports America Chesapeake Vice President Bayard Hogans said. “We are truly excited for what it means for the Baltimore port.”

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The new cranes, some of the tallest in the world, are the latest step toward doubling the port’s container capacity once the Howard Street Tunnel is expanded to allow freight trains to carry shipping containers stacked two-high. The $466 million tunnel project is expected to eliminate the port’s Achilles heel, putting it on even footing with competing East Coast ports in New York, Virginia and South Carolina.

“It’s an exciting day for Maryland. I couldn’t be more proud of the hard work that’s being done here at the port,” Gov. Larry Hogan said as he watched the cranes roll into the port on Thursday. “We’ve had record breaking years here year after year. We’ve continued to increase production here and this is just one more step that’s going to help us in that direction.”

Here are some facts and figures on Thursday’s special delivery to the port:

Just how tall are they?

Each crane stands 450 feet tall, about 25 feet taller than the current Neo-Panamax container cranes delivered in 2012, according to the Port of Baltimore.

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That’s just a few feet shorter than the One South Street tower, formerly known as the Alex. Brown & Sons Building, downtown.

How did the cranes make it under the Bay Bridge and Key Bridge?

It was a tight squeeze. The cranes hung off each side of the ship, creating an overall beam of nearly 500 feet, and they were about 176 feet tall aboard the ship, according to the Coast Guard.

That left just about 10 feet of clearance under the Bay and Key bridges, which have clearances of about 186 and 185 feet, according to the state.

How much can the cranes lift? How far can they reach?

The 1,740-ton cranes can reach 23 containers across a container ship tied up at the Seagirt docks. Each crane can lift 187,500 pounds of cargo — roughly the weight of 13 elephants or 50 cars — at once.

Those cranes must weigh a ton!

That’s 1,740 tons, to be exact. That’s about 190 tons more than the last set of cranes.

They’re too enormous not to guzzle gas, though, right?

Nope. The new cranes are fully electric, and thus emit no diesel emissions, according to the Port of Baltimore.

When will they start moving cargo?

Hogans said crew at the port will spend the next couple of weeks unloading the cranes from their ship and setting them upright.

Ports America Chesapeake and International Longshoremen’s Association Local 333 crane operators will test the new cranes over the next few months before bringing them into service.

“They will be fully operational in the beginning of 2022,” said Richard Scher, spokesman for the Maryland Port Administration.

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