Sarens dismantles “Goliath” gantry crane at historic shipyard

By Hannah Sundermeyer07 January 2022

Dominating the East Coast skyline for decades, the Goliath 32400 gantry crane was erected in 1969 at the Newport News Shipbuilding facility in Newport News, VA. Sarens was commissioned in 2019 to demolish the old gantry, that was designed for a different era of shipbuilding. The operation was scheduled for March to December 2020. 

Newport News Shipbuilding is dedicated to the U.S. Navy, building new fleets and providing maintenance to the Navy’s aircraft carriers and submarines. Photo Courtesy: Huntington Ingalls Industries

Newport News Shipbuilding is the shipyard dedicated to the U.S. Navy, building new fleets and providing maintenance support to the Navy’s fleet of aircraft carriers and submarines. Crane 32400 – also nicknamed “the green crane” – towered over two parallel docks, with a central wall and had a span of 134 meters, a hook height of 50.5 meters and a lifting capacity of 310 long tons.

The crane’s weight was estimated at 2,200 metric tons. Access to the crane was limited and the actual work zone restricted to well‐defined areas, as the demolition had to take place in parallel with the preparation of the docks for the next aircraft carrier to come in, and without interrupting shipyard activities. 

Challenges galore

The low ground bearing pressure for the tower system on the dock floor was a challenge and no support on the center wall was allowed. The Sarens engineering team worked around this challenge, with the combination of load spreading and actual loads resulting in a free standing eight tower set‐up with a combination of the SCT (Sarens Climbing Tower) on a 24-meter-tall base of the SMLT 5800 (Sarens Multi Lift Tower). The towers were topped off with eight 450-ton strand jacks.

The equipment arrived in March 2020. The site management was shared by the U.S. workforce and the Sarens Global Projects team. Due to Covid‐19 travel restrictions, the global team virtually assisted the operations on the jobsite. 

The demolition of the Goliath began in August 2020. After cutting the boogies loose, the Goliath was lifted with the strand jacks and the boogies moved out using crawler cranes. The boogies were loaded onto SPMTs and transported to a staging yard. In three more steps, removing the sill beams, the lower leg sections and the upper leg sections, the main girder was lowered to ground level. During every step of the demolition the crane was secured against high winds, which was a good thing when Hurricane Laura’s remnants barrelled through.

Photo Courtesy: Huntington Ingalls Industries

Once the main girder was lowered, adequate load spreading was installed to set down and release the strand jacks. The lift system was then dismantled and assembled for the next phase. Simultaneously, the crane parts, sill beams and leg sections were loaded‐out on the barge using SPMTs and transported 10 hours upstream where they were offloaded and set in a staging area to be scrapped. 

Girders cut

As the old gantry was completely dismantled, both docks were filled with water. In each dock, a barge equipped with supporting girders was positioned under the main girder. Both barges were ballasted to take the load of the main girders. Finally, the main girders were cut in the middle and each of the half‐girders rotated 90 degrees on the barge using SPMTs. They were then set down for evacuation to the staging area for scrapping.

“It was a truly fascinating experience to be able to walk around the site with a huge historic importance,” said Steven Sarens, senior vice president, North America. “And it’s not often one gets a chance to get close to an aircraft carrier.”

Restrictions due to working aircraft carriers and submarines added an additional challenge to the operations. “Our meticulous planning and execution made sure that the demolition of the iconic crane was completed smoothly and within the timeline,” said Sarens.

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