Goliath crane commissioned

29 Jun 2011

The largest lift capacity crane in Britain completed commissioning today (29 June) at Babcock's Rosyth dockyard. The Goliath crane is to be used in the assembly and integration of the UK's new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers by Babcock at its Rosyth dockyard and will see its first operational use in the autumn following a series of proving trials.

The partially-erected crane arrived at Rosyth earlier this year from China, where it was manufactured. The last four months have seen a busy programme to erect, test and commission the crane, involving around 100 people.

The massive crane stands at a height of 68 metres to the underside of the main beams, with a span of 120 metres to straddle the construction area of the new carriers, and a lift capacity of 1,000 tonnes. It will be used to lift and place the carrier sub-blocks and components (including upper block and sponsons, bow block, islands and aircraft lifts) without disrupting the dockside area adjacent to the ship. The blocks are being constructed at shipyards around Britain and shipped to Rosyth for final assembly and integration by Babcock on behalf of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance.

The crane's 1,000 tonne lifting capacity is provided by three hooks. The individual capacity of each provides a valuable degree of flexibility in lifting some awkward loads with difficult centres of gravity, and allows units or blocks to be turned over, up to a unit load of 500 tonnes. Two of the hooks are suspended from an upper trolley (each hook having a 300 tonne capacity) and one from a central, lower, trolley with a 500 tonne capacity. While the three hooks have a greater cumulative lifting capacity than 1,000 tonnes, the total capacity is defined by the crane structure.

The crane was constructed in China by specialist manufacturer Shanghai Zhenhua Port Machinery Co Ltd (ZPMC), with Babcock undertaking rigorous quality control management during the course of the two year build. It was delivered to Rosyth in March this year with the girder and upper sections of the legs assembled, along with all the components and erection equipment required to complete the crane assembly on site, including temporary erection towers.

Following arrival at Rosyth, the crane was erected to its full height on the ship deck, including jacking up the main beam and installing the legs at each end, the crane was then transferred from ship to shore in May, directly onto the purpose-installed crane rails. The programme to erect, test and commission the crane has also involved completion of the electrical cable installation, setting to work, and initial load testing of the completed assembly, ready for the first lift today.

Training is scheduled to take place this summer with drivers already being trained on a specialist simulator, and the crane will be ready for operation from September in line with the carrier build programme, when the next lower and centre blocks arrive at Rosyth and the assembly cycle to install the first of the upper blocks onto the lower begins.

"Installation of the Goliath crane is a highly visible milestone in the carrier programme, and makes a significant impact on the Fife skyline," Babcock Project Director Sean Donaldson said. "The new aircraft carriers, at 65,000 tonnes, 280 metres long, 70 metres wide and 56 metres high, will be the UK's largest and most powerful warships, and this huge crane has a vital part to play in enabling us to lift and move the various sub-blocks and components safely and efficiently, in the assembly and integration process to construct these massive vessels here in Rosyth. The assembly and offload ashore phases presented the project team with a number of significant risks to manage, and working with ZPMC this was achieved with no lost work days due to injury."