Friday, December 9, 2011

"Zhen Hua 9" - What's wrong with this picture?

Several days ago, our hometown newspaper, the Port Townsend Leader, featured a photo of the Zhen Hua 9 entering Puget Sound with three massive container cranes, the first of six, bound for the Port of Seattle's Terminal 18.

She looks a little tender with 185 foot high cranes rising high above her deck, as compared to her 41 foot draft. But like Seattle's Space Needle, her center of gravity is surprisingly low.

But there is more behind the dramatic photograph than meets the eye. The real question is "What is wrong with this photograph?" Plenty.

  • Each of the cranes are built by Zhangiagang Port Machinery Company (ZPMC), a division of Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Company, Ltd., headquartered in Shanghai.
  • Each crane is valued at approximately USD $9m.
  • Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries also owns and operates Shanghai Zenhua Shipping Company, operating the Zhen Hua 9, built in Japan, manned by largely Chinese crews.
  • The new generation of long-reach container cranes is necessary to service a new generation of "Super Panamax" container ships, scheduled to be built in either China or South Korea.
  • These ships will carry more containers, carrying almost everything you see in your local WalMart, K-Mart and so on.
  • As compared to our top five exports to China, including computers, crop production, chemicals, transportation equipment and machinery.
  • A hefty number of containers are never re-filled with US goods to go back to China. Those are seen stacked in huge numbers around Seattle and Tacoma, as well as Portland - virtually any container port. The number of idle containers reflects the imbalance of trade.
  • In 2010, China was our third largest export country, following Canada and Mexico.
Empty containers. They came here loaded. But there is nothing to ship.

That is part of what is wrong with this photograph of the Zhen Hua 9 passing Port Wilson. Pretty sad state of affairs that our government policies and trade agreements have failed to place the USA first! Not to mention the corporate greed and desire to establish a world economy, with correspondingly flat line wages world wide.

Special Purpose Vessels

Shanghai Zhenhua Shipping Company operates a fleet 28 Special Purpose Vessels, that, through April 2010, had delivered more than 3,781 material handling cranes world wide.

Zhen Hua 9 was built in Japan, IMO:8021971, entering service in February, 2005. Records show that through April, 2010, this vessel had delivered:
  • 76 Quayside Container Cranes (similar to photo)
  • 61 Rubber-tired Gantry Cranes
  • 63 Rail Mounted Gantry Cranes (RMG), similar to BNSF's RMG, one of four operating at Seattle International Gateway.Three more ZPMC cranes will be delivered to Seattle's SSA Terminal 18 in 2014.

Life without a Container Crane!

click on photo for video

Crane Delivery Considerations

click photo for time lapse video

Not all deliveries are trouble free, as demonstrated by the grounding of Zhen Hua 10 off Rotterdam in 2008. I mentioned "tender" at the beginning of this article. "Tender" is used by nautical types to reflect the "tipsy" motion of a vessel. There are serious considerations given to container crane transport.

The Zhen Hua 10 lost her anchor while awaiting delivery to the Port of Rotterdam. She ended up stranded on the beach.The video is a remarkable demonstration of how stable these loads are, despite the visual presentation! She eventually completed her delivery!


This video demonstrates how a similar type crane is unloaded from the Zhen Hua 13 onto the quay - pier. This explains why these special purpose vessels feature a lower freeboard - sit lower in the water, than a typical cargo vessel.

In the video, you will see a torch cutting through a brace. These cranes are literally welded to the deck of the vessel to stabilize them in transit.


  • Those three S-T-S container cranes are the first of six ordered by SSA Marine. Estimated cost per crane, USD $9m.
  • SSA Marine is a "Carrix Enterprise."
  • Carrix and SSA continue to be controlled by the Smith family, whose forebears founded the company in Bellingham in the 1940s.
  • Goldman Sachs Infrastructure Partners has committed to a significant equity investment in the Company, positioning Carrix to capitalize on the substantial growth opportunity in the global port operations industry. Source: Bellingham Herald.

Goldman-Sachs. Sounds familiar?

In closing, a couple of questions. Serious questions. "What happened to America's steel making ability; what happened to America's bridge building expertise; what happened to America's ship building capacity?"

ZPMC successfully completed the steel structure of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. So one of the most famous Bay Area crossings is labeled with “Made in China."

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