Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility sent Crane 79 on its way to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, aboard a barge Nov. 20, 2021.
Throughout the past few months, Crane 79 has been steadily prepared for shipment. The 2.2 million-pound crane was loaded aboard the barge in November to make its way to its new home.
Bryce Perkins, Code 713, Engineering and Procurement branch head, said the crane transfer is estimated to cost about $6.4 million, and should take an estimated 40-50 days to reach PNSY.
According to Dan Bowen, crane engineer and Code 710’s subject matter expert, the transfer will help to increase the mission capabilities of PNSY.
“Portsmouth Naval Shipyard has been tasked by Naval Sea Systems Command to perform submarine overhaul work that requires a heavy lift portal crane,” Bowen said. “They are procuring a brand new 140-ton heavy lift crane through the Navy Crane Center.”
While that crane has been delivered, Bowen said it will need several months of production work to demonstrate its reliability before it can be used in the specialized manner PNSY needs. In the meantime, Crane 79 will fill that gap.
Bowen said that NAVSEA also wanted to ensure PNSY had a back-up heavy lift crane as well as the new heavy-lift crane they recently purchased. The new Portsmouth crane will be Crane 38, and is colloquially known as “Big Blue.”
“We have two [heavy-lift cranes] and Norfolk Naval Shipyard [in Virginia] has two,” Bowen said. “NAVSEA looked at their options and decided we were best prepared to give them one.”
Transferring Crane 79, which can lift 171.5 tons, to PNSY will leave PSNS & IMF with only one heavy-lift crane: Crane 78. However, a new heavy-lift crane for PSNS & IMF is already in the works.
“We have a 175-ton capacity crane in the acquisition process,” Perkins said. “It’s due here around 2024. Right now it’s in the design phase.”
The contract to design and build the 175-ton crane that will eventually trundle its way across PSNS & IMF will cost about $46 million.
Portsmouth is receiving a true workhorse in Crane 79, which has been at PSNS & IMF since 1996. With a 171.5-ton lift capacity, the crane can lift:
• 857 sumo wrestlers [400 lbs. each]
• 156 Clydesdale horses [2,200 lbs. each]
• 28 killer whales [12,000 lbs. each]
• 22 fifth-wheel trailers [15,000 lbs. each]
• 17 Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaurs [estimated 20,000 lbs. each]
• 13 school buses [25,000 lbs. each]
• 2 space shuttle orbiters [160,000 lbs. each, sans external fuel tanks/solid rocket boosters]
For comparison, Crane 93, which sports a Seattle Seahawks color scheme, can “only” lift 60 tons. Bowen said any crane that can lift more than 60 tons is informally referred to as a heavy-lift crane.
Transferring cranes among U.S. Navy activities is not a new concept, nor is it even the first time Crane 79, which Bowen called the “travelling crane,” has made a cross-country trip. According to Bowen, it has crossed the nation twice before its current voyage.
“There were three sister cranes built on the contract that produced Crane 79,” Bowen recalled. “There was one for us, which was Crane 78. There was one for Mare Island Naval Shipyard. What is now Crane 79 went to Charleston Naval Shipyard, in South Carolina. Charleston and Mare Island [closed] in the 90s. The Mare Island crane went to Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii. It is still at Pearl Harbor today. The Charleston crane came to us.”
According to Perkins, it will undergo a maintenance period and inspection before PNSY starts using it.
“Portsmouth already did some training here on that crane about two years ago,” he said. “They are requesting some help with the first annual servicing of the crane. Some inspectors from Pearl might also help with that servicing, so it’s a corporate effort to get the crane up and running.”