One of the important factors in selecting this or that route for sea shipment of outsized and heavy cargoes is availability of crane facilities in an unloading port capable of reloading extra heavy items.
One of such competitive advantages is heavy floating cranes available in a port. Their unique feature is flexibility. They operate well both in ports, shipyards, and in open unprotected water areas. They can perform all types of sea lifting, construction, installation and rescue activities, transport a load on its deck which can be three times heavier than main hook lifting capacity, service high-sided vessels and participate in various hydraulic engineering operations, reinforcement of coast lines and structures.
The absolute leader used in ports of Russia became the sea self-propelled floating crane with the lifting capacity of 300 tons, Bogatyr type. This floating crane is designed to operate in sheltered and open harbors.
A total of 6 units were built with handing over the launch order in 1971. Two of the floating cranes of this type are equipped with fly jibs. The floating crane can carry up to 900 tons on its load platform. Designer – CDB Corall of Sevastopol founded in 1965 and later appointed a base enterprise of the Ministry of Shipbuilding for floating cranes engineering – now forms part of Caspian Energy Group. They were built at Sevastopol Marine Plant named after Sergo Ordzhonikidze.
Owing to geographical features, top requested is now floating crane Bogatyr-4 owned by OAO Sea Port of St. Petersburg. This crane is the third out of six produced in this family. His fellow Bogatyr-6 included into inventory of Vyborg Shipyard is also actively handling heavy lifts. Another crane is working in Poland, the others – in the Far East (Bogatyr-2, EVRAZ Nakhodka Commercial Sea Port), the Caspian Sea (Bogatyr-3, Crane Marine Company), and the Black Sea (Bogatyr-1, Ilyichevsk Commercial Sea Port).
From time to time, each of them has to deal with extraordinary tasks. For example, Bogatyr-6 is the only heavy floating crane in the Russian Far East which took part in rescue and lifting of three submarines. One of them, C-178, sank in autumn 1981 as a result of ram collision with a reefer vessel which caused death of 32 submarine officers. Bogatyr had the following assignment: to force the boat off the bed and tow it under the floating crane bottom from the fairway to Patrokl Bay – the particular cemetery of submarines. There was no other way the fleet could lift it. The floating crane crew coped with this task: the lost boat hanging on the boom was being dragged underwater for almost a month.
Another diesel submarine from Maly Uliss ran ashore Askold Island in the summer of 1987 as ordered by the captain – there was a fire on the submarine practising combat tasks at sea which jeopardized its operational stock. As soon as the fire was extinguished, the boat was towed to Pavlovsk Bay with a huge breach in the first compartment. A big trim by stern was required to work in the flooded compartment of the boat and that was exactly what Bogatyr was doing during several days of rescue activities.
But the most terrible tragedy happened on August 10, 1985 when there was an accident at ship-repair yard No. 30 in Chazhma Bay during core refuelling of K-431 reactors. As the lid of the portside reactor was laid incorrectly, its compensating lattice was lifted resulting in a nuclear chain reaction – a thermal explosion. Ten people were dead at the explosion. The boat was no longer operational, and radioactive contamination also impacted the floating workshop PM-133, torpedo nuclear submarine K-42 (decommissioned as a result) and a diesel submarine located next to K-431.
The floating crane was moving four pontoons to the boat. Bogatyr was keeping the boat afloat by one hook of its heavy-duty crane. Very thick wire rope slings were hung on another smaller plummet to which straps were attached – 1-meter wide steel sheets moved by the crane under the submarine hull. The pontoons were then fastened to these straps. The work was ongoing for about 10 days, after which the pontoons were purged, the boat fixed by slings and straps and towed to Pavlovsk.
Nowadays, the floating crane has been repeatedly used in federal and regional projects. For example, it took part in construction of the sea oil port pier in Kozmino Bay, construction of the bridge over Zolotoy Rog Bay and drydock on Sakhalin-2 Project. Another assignment of the Far East Bogatyr is cleaning Vladivostok Port bay area from out-of-gauge steel structures of sunken vessels.
The floating crane of St. Petersburg Port is also not idle. It assisted construction of ports in Kemi, Hamina, Riga, Tallinn, Murmansk and Ust-Luga, erection of Grenadiers, Finland, Volodarsky and Blagoveshchensky Bridges in St. Petersburg, lifting of fishing trawler “Komsomolsky”, tug boat “Moskva” and dry cargo ship “Kaunas” off the Neva riverbed.
One of the latest significant operations is reloading of the oversize heavy equipment batch this summer which will be used for restoration of Sayano-Shushenskaya HPP hydropower units. It was underway on Sverdlovskaya Naberezhnaya in St. Petersburg and took about 72 hours. Three water wheels (each weighing 145 tons), two oil tanks of generator center plates (21 tons each) and two 13-ton rotor frames of auxiliary generators were loaded on m/v “Arsenal”.
Its “colleague” from Vyborg, Bogatyr-6, was also involved in reloading of unique cargoes. At the end of 2012, the heaviest parts of the molten core catcher for nuclear plant LNPP-2 were carried on its board and then loaded in: the 156-ton body, 163-ton cantilever truss, bottom slab of the same weight, 68-ton maintenance platform and 215 tons of protective filler. This cargo will be delivered to Sosnovy Bor along the Gulf of Finland.
What will these cranes face in future? Despite their considerable age, some being over 40 years old, they are still coping with their tasks, although specifications indicate 20 years as the guaranteed service life of these floating cranes. Not least due to great safety margin of “Made in USSR” and capital repair. As forecast by the designers, these cranes will service their owners for at least 10 years more, but what’s next?
There are no orders for new cranes, and no orders are expected any time soon, as our ports are predominantly not much interested in heavy-weight cargoes. On the other hand, demand for floating cranes services is gradually dropping, as the price of $70,000 (in the Port of St. Petersburg) for a single lift many think is too high. Therefore, forwarding agents use every opportunity to handle oversize loads on rivers. Or use vessels with deck crane facilities. Chartering of these is not so expensive and even more beneficial on short routes. So, there is almost always an alternative for Bogatyr cranes.