Crane dismantling – Swan Hunters Shipyard, River Tyne


As the once-great shipbuilding industry dwindled on the river Tyne, many of the large shipyards closed down. One of the best known and last to close was Swan Hunter. After 128 years, building over 250 ships, the shipyard of Swan Hunter ceased vessel construction. Soon after the final vessel left the shipyard the iconic Wallsend cranes were put up for sale and after six months sold to the Bharati Shipyards. The cranes were sold as a complete package, however, Bharati Shipyards only had use for three of the bigger cranes on the site, leaving the rest to be scrapped. O’Brien’s was appointed by the client to dismantle three of the cranes for reuse and dismantle and demolish eight cranes for scrap.

To help reduce costs for the client two of the heavy-lift luffing cranes were utilised to dismantle seven of the redundant cranes on the site. The luffing cranes were then carefully dismantled using a 1200 ton capacity crawler crane. The sections of the three cranes which were being shipped to India were transported and loaded onto a floating drydock using SPMT’s. The operation was carefully planned and choreographed using computer software to ensure every piece of the dismantled cranes would fit into the drydock, whilst ensuring even weight distribution to allow for the safe shipment to India. A semi-submersible heavy lift ship was utilised to transport the floating drydock from the river Tyne to Bharati Shipyards India.

The final two hammerhead cranes in the shipyard where demolished by way of an explosive controlled collapse. This was done at the request of the local council as a spectacle for the local community to celebrate the history of shipbuilding on Tyneside. All cranes which were not to be reused were cut up and scrapped onsite by our demolition team. It was imperative that the dismantling and scrapping operation was as efficient as possible to maximise the value of the scrap and the client’s return on investment.

The scope of works included:

  • 4No. Dockside cranes dismantled (scrapped)
  • 1No. Hammerhead crane dismantled (for reuse)
  • 2No. Hammerhead crane dismantled (scrapped)
  • 2No. Hammerhead crane blasted (scrapped)
  • 2No. Luffing crane dismantled (for reuse)
  • Removal of all scrap metal from the site
  • Loading of floating drydock with cranes for reuse

The O’Brien’s team carried out all aspects of the lifting operations including:

  • Initial site survey
  • Calculations of load weights
  • Design of dismantling sequence
  • Design of unique pre-weakening operation
  • Design of blasting operation
  • Ground loading calculations
  • Installation of crane pads
  • Provision of risk analysis
  • Provision of detailed lift plan’s
  • Provision of a ground impact study
  • Implementation of environmental control measures
  • Design & installation of quay deck protection
  • The dismantling of three cranes for transport and reuse
  • The dismantling of six cranes for scrap
  • The blasting of two cranes for scrap
  • Planning, supervision and execution of lifting operations
  • Planning, supervision and execution of all works

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