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Delivery Day for the Port of Oakland Terminal Cranes

While Latitude drivers were out delivering the January issue, a unique cargo ship was making a unique delivery to the Port of Oakland. We got up early to see the sunrise arrival after the ship had spent a few days anchored in Drake’s Bay to lower the cranes so they could ‘limbo’ under the Golden Gate.

Three of the largest cranes in the US have a new home in the Port of Oakland. Stevedoring Services of America (SSA) invested $30 million in the three giant cranes for its marine terminal at Oakland International Container Terminal.

Port of Oakland ZPMC
At about 7:30 a.m. the new cranes were headed past Point Bonita toward the Port of Oakland, arriving all the way from China.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

The monster cranes will be a boon to the Oakland area. Taller cranes can more easily handle cargo coming in on ultra-large container ships. Danny Wan, Port of Oakland executive director, noted, “Ultimately, bigger cranes at our waterfront translate into maritime and related jobs for the region.”

Port of Oakland ZPMC
From where we were, aboard John Kahn’s Striper 270 Kahnquest, it looked like the cranes wouldn’t fit under the bridge.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

An early-morning wake-up netted some amazing views of the cranes as they made their way through the Golden Gate early this morning aboard the Zhen Hua 35. The towering pieces had to be folded in order to fit under the bridge.

When the cranes are finally installed at the port, they will soar more than 400 feet above the wharf. SSA currently operates 10 cranes at the Oakland International Container Terminal. Three older cranes will be removed from the terminal when the new ones arrive.

Port of Oakland ZPMC
A tug was there just in case ….
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

The early-morning photoshoot was inspired by Michael Rossi of the Cheoy Lee 40 LunaSea, currently berthed in Marina Riviera Nayarit. We also saw Abner Kingman out there shooting from his RIB, so he’ll likely have some great shots on his website soon. It’s not every day you see a ship with this kind of cargo arriving in the Bay, and fortunately the fog lifted and the sun was shining so we could capture some photos. Once the cranes are installed, Oakland Estuary sailors will be sailing beneath these booms high overhead.


  1. Bill 3 years ago

    So Oakland had the cranes built in China, shipped on a Chinese ship just to unload countless tons of Chinese products. We’re doomed.

    • John Navas 3 years ago

      Works for me. Boost to the Bay Area economy. Otherwise the ships just go someplace else. You can’t solve fundamental national trade problems by erecting artificial local barriers.

      (The proper solution is to invest in education, workers, manufacturing, and exporting. That’s how Germany became a world manufacturing powerhouse despite high labor costs and a strong social safety net.)

  2. Steve Grogan 3 years ago

    I think Bill and John are both right. Interestingly, the biggest container cranes on the west coast used to be built on Blanding Ave in Alameda. This waterfront site now is vacant awaiting condos. The Germans provided 2 cranes to the port in the 80’s. They did the design and the hoist machinery. The large structural pieces were fabricated in Stockton and then erected on site by a local contractor that did that type of work all over the US.
    The Chinese targeted this industry with cheap labor and a logical and clever business plan.
    They combined a steel fabrication company (that also erected the container cranes on their factory site) with a shipping and shipbuilding company that provided ships specifically designed to haul container cranes and then self insured the delivery voyages (probably with the resources of the Chinese govt).
    The cranes are loaded on the ship with the wheel trucks oriented athwartship for efficiency in loading and offloading. Downside is that there is more risk of accidentally downloading in a storm. Hence the need for self insurance (and good weather forecasting) as independent insurance companies wouldn’t insure such a method.
    Another interesting fact is that even those these cranes are built in China, they are still designed by an excellent engineering company on Grand Ave in Oakland that originally designed for the company in Alameda.
    The excellent Chinese business model would probably run afoul of anti-monopoly, anti-trust type regulation if it were set up in this country. And the Port has to waive its stringent hire in Oakland program that local contractors must attempt fulfill. But as stated by John the port needs to be competitive and can’t solve national problems

  3. Ron Harben 3 years ago

    Ah, yes; vertical integration – aka monopoly. I hope the steel is better than that used in the Bay bridge.

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