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Extreme machine A one-of-a-kind floating marvel is currently helping to complete the second of two new breakwaters at the Belgian Port of Ostend. Steven Vale boards the pontoon for a first-hand look at a machine. ith over 150 machines now out at work since production started in the early 1990s, Belgian engineering company Indusign/E-Crane Worldwide has built up quite a reputation for its sturdily-built range of equilibrium cranes. Using parts sourced from a wide range of suppliers, the company offers the 700, 1000, 1500, 2000 and 3000 series. All are assembled at the Indusign’s European headquarters at Adegem, not far from Ghent. While half end up working in scrap yards, these popular balance cranes continue to find favour with a growing number of ports for materials handling duties. Most of the 10 to 15 machines made each year are supplied to customers in North America and Europe, generally working well away from prying eyes. That is with one exception, because the company is currently enjoying worldwide acclaim following the commissioning of a phenomenal 1200-tonne machine at the Maasvlakte 2 project in the Port of Rotterdam. Called the Blockbuster, it is capable of pinpoint accuracy placement of 45-tonne concrete blocks at a maximum reach of 50m!

W

HIGH-FLYING

The Albatros is the latest creation from Belgian company E-Crane. All told, the pontoon and crane tip the scales at over 900 tonnes.

ALBATROS JANUARY 2012 EARTHMOVERS

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While Blockbuster, and its job to handle over 21,000 blocks, continues to attract plenty of attention, it is worth sparing a thought for another equally new E-Crane currently working a couple of hours drive south. The blocks may be a tad lighter, and the reach a bit less, but this latest creation is another machine worthy of the extreme status. Secured to the rear of a pontoon called the Albatros, the striking newcomer is currently raising eyebrows in the Port of Ostend at a job site featured in a recent issue of EARTHMOVERS. At the time, the focus was on the trio of large excavators that are speeding ahead laying the backbone for the second of two new, chunky breakwaters at the popular Belgian port. While the Liebherr R974, Sennebogen 870 and Hitachi EX1200 are without doubt the star attractions of the land works, the water is the domain of a the Albatros – a truly spectacular machine. At high tide, the Albatros floats into position to get on with the job of positioning 15-tonne HARO blocks. When you see it for the first time it is difficult to know whether to describe the machine it carries – the first 1500B Series E-Crane to be put on to a self-propelled spud barge – as an excavator or a crane. It appears to be a bit of a marriage between the two. Dubbed the E-Dredger, the 10290B on which it is based offers a lift capacity of 15 tonnes and a maximum horizontal reach of 29m. Combining an 18.75m boom with an 11.6m stick, the on-land version of this machine has a service weight of 165 tonnes. Even on the pontoon, the top half still tips the scales at a hefty 120 tonnes.

The one-of-a-kind machine was originally built for Belgian company Kraaijenveld, which belongs to parent company Herbosch-Kiere, an Antwerpbased shipping and salvage company. Active in marine and civil engineering, and demolition, this company in turn is owned by Brussels-based Softcom – part of the French Eiffage group. Over the years Herbosch-Kiere has built up an impressive portfolio, including jobs such as the salvage of notorious ships the Herald of Free Enterprise and Tricolor. Through its British subsidiary, Chiswick-based Herbosch-Kiere Marine Contractors, it has also carried out piling works in connection with the London Underground. The Ostend job is another major challenge. Working in tidal waters is never easy, limiting the time the pontoon can spend at the job site to just a few hours at a go. Requiring a minimum water depth of 1.6m under the keel, sometimes after just four hours at the current site it has to retreat to beat the receding tide. Commissioned in early 2009, the pontoon it is coupled to is equally large and the design of Herbosch-Kiere project engineer Roger de Corte. The three unbelievably large spuds allow the pontoon to operate in a maximum water depth of 25m. An in-house design, the basic structure was built in China. If the 50mlong x 15m-wide device were lifted out of the water and placed on a weighbridge, it would top 900 tonnes. This figure includes the E-Dredger’s weapons armoury, the majority of which were made by Dutch-firm J&G Grabs. They include a 3.5cu.m round-nose grab, which even empty weighs over nine tonnes, and a 5.5cu.m clamshell. Over the past few years we have featured quite a number of massive backhoe dredgers, fitted to pontoons with impressive names such as Nordic Giant (Liebherr P995), Maricavor (Komatsu PC3000) and Pinocchio (Liebherr P996). Not long ago, the latter had the unenviable task of digging up unexploded bombs and mines left on the seabed at Ostend following the two world wars. The dredging works now complete, Pinocchio has long gone leaving the Albatros to line the new breakwaters.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS This latest water-going earthmover differs from all current underwater diggers in a number of ways. First, it is able to travel unassisted at sea. Tucked away below deck, a pair of 603hp Volvo Penta engines provide to power the rear thrust boosters. Up front extra thrust comes from a 348kW Omega engine to provide the pontoon with plenty of power and flexibility, allowing it to change position quickly, even in gale force winds. This self-propelled nature is a big bonus at the Ostend job. When forced to retreat during bad weather, the vessel has managed to fit in another job at a more sheltered location on the River Schelde in Antwerp – a journey that takes eight to nine hours. Here, the self-propelled nature gives it immense flexibility. All the crew has to do is raise the spuds, and start the engines. There is no need to wait for a tow. Second, there are no massive fuel-guzzling diesel engines pumping away at the heart of the E-Dredger. Instead, the hydro-electric machine takes its power from the same 603hp Volvo Penta engines used to propel the pontoon. This diesel power is used to harness a 225kW electric motor, which powers the E-Dredger’s hydraulic systems.

Main Picture and Top Left: Cunningly simple, the equilibrium design relies on a 60-tonne rear counterweight to balance the boom, stick, attachment and material.

When fully stretched, the E-Dredger reaches to 29m. At this length it is still easily capable of lifting 15-tonne blocks.

The compact nature of this set-up makes it ideal for maintenance dredging applications; it can even go under low bridges

The E-Dredger takes its power from the same Volvo Penta engines used to propel the pontoon.

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While Blockbuster, and its job to handle over 21,000 blocks, continues to attract plenty of attention, it is worth sparing a thought for another equally new E-Crane currently working a couple of hours drive south. The blocks may be a tad lighter, and the reach a bit less, but this latest creation is another machine worthy of the extreme status. Secured to the rear of a pontoon called the Albatros, the striking newcomer is currently raising eyebrows in the Port of Ostend at a job site featured in a recent issue of EARTHMOVERS. At the time, the focus was on the trio of large excavators that are speeding ahead laying the backbone for the second of two new, chunky breakwaters at the popular Belgian port. While the Liebherr R974, Sennebogen 870 and Hitachi EX1200 are without doubt the star attractions of the land works, the water is the domain of a the Albatros – a truly spectacular machine. At high tide, the Albatros floats into position to get on with the job of positioning 15-tonne HARO blocks. When you see it for the first time it is difficult to know whether to describe the machine it carries – the first 1500B Series E-Crane to be put on to a self-propelled spud barge – as an excavator or a crane. It appears to be a bit of a marriage between the two. Dubbed the E-Dredger, the 10290B on which it is based offers a lift capacity of 15 tonnes and a maximum horizontal reach of 29m. Combining an 18.75m boom with an 11.6m stick, the on-land version of this machine has a service weight of 165 tonnes. Even on the pontoon, the top half still tips the scales at a hefty 120 tonnes.

The one-of-a-kind machine was originally built for Belgian company Kraaijenveld, which belongs to parent company Herbosch-Kiere, an Antwerpbased shipping and salvage company. Active in marine and civil engineering, and demolition, this company in turn is owned by Brussels-based Softcom – part of the French Eiffage group. Over the years Herbosch-Kiere has built up an impressive portfolio, including jobs such as the salvage of notorious ships the Herald of Free Enterprise and Tricolor. Through its British subsidiary, Chiswick-based Herbosch-Kiere Marine Contractors, it has also carried out piling works in connection with the London Underground. The Ostend job is another major challenge. Working in tidal waters is never easy, limiting the time the pontoon can spend at the job site to just a few hours at a go. Requiring a minimum water depth of 1.6m under the keel, sometimes after just four hours at the current site it has to retreat to beat the receding tide. Commissioned in early 2009, the pontoon it is coupled to is equally large and the design of Herbosch-Kiere project engineer Roger de Corte. The three unbelievably large spuds allow the pontoon to operate in a maximum water depth of 25m. An in-house design, the basic structure was built in China. If the 50mlong x 15m-wide device were lifted out of the water and placed on a weighbridge, it would top 900 tonnes. This figure includes the E-Dredger’s weapons armoury, the majority of which were made by Dutch-firm J&G Grabs. They include a 3.5cu.m round-nose grab, which even empty weighs over nine tonnes, and a 5.5cu.m clamshell. Over the past few years we have featured quite a number of massive backhoe dredgers, fitted to pontoons with impressive names such as Nordic Giant (Liebherr P995), Maricavor (Komatsu PC3000) and Pinocchio (Liebherr P996). Not long ago, the latter had the unenviable task of digging up unexploded bombs and mines left on the seabed at Ostend following the two world wars. The dredging works now complete, Pinocchio has long gone leaving the Albatros to line the new breakwaters.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS This latest water-going earthmover differs from all current underwater diggers in a number of ways. First, it is able to travel unassisted at sea. Tucked away below deck, a pair of 603hp Volvo Penta engines provide to power the rear thrust boosters. Up front extra thrust comes from a 348kW Omega engine to provide the pontoon with plenty of power and flexibility, allowing it to change position quickly, even in gale force winds. This self-propelled nature is a big bonus at the Ostend job. When forced to retreat during bad weather, the vessel has managed to fit in another job at a more sheltered location on the River Schelde in Antwerp – a journey that takes eight to nine hours. Here, the self-propelled nature gives it immense flexibility. All the crew has to do is raise the spuds, and start the engines. There is no need to wait for a tow. Second, there are no massive fuel-guzzling diesel engines pumping away at the heart of the E-Dredger. Instead, the hydro-electric machine takes its power from the same 603hp Volvo Penta engines used to propel the pontoon. This diesel power is used to harness a 225kW electric motor, which powers the E-Dredger’s hydraulic systems.

Main Picture and Top Left: Cunningly simple, the equilibrium design relies on a 60-tonne rear counterweight to balance the boom, stick, attachment and material.

When fully stretched, the E-Dredger reaches to 29m. At this length it is still easily capable of lifting 15-tonne blocks.

The compact nature of this set-up makes it ideal for maintenance dredging applications; it can even go under low bridges

The E-Dredger takes its power from the same Volvo Penta engines used to propel the pontoon.

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Operator Rene Hoffmans confirms that when compared to excavator-based backhoe dredgers, the machine is amazingly quiet; a useful feature when working closer to shore near residential areas. This quiet running nature is not limited just to the exterior because noise levels inside the cab are an incredibly low 20 decibels. “The only noises I can hear in the cab are the whirring of the computers and the humming of the heater,” he says. Another notable feature is the Albatros’ compact nature. With the cab lowered, the package sits quite low on the deck, allowing it to squeeze under even quite low bridges and obstructions, while the tailswing is just 7.5m. Finally, the most obvious difference between the Albatros and all the other pontoon-based machines we have featured during recent years is the lack of

boom and stick cylinders. Instead, E stands for equilibrium, and a key feature of the parallelogramstyle boom is that it provides a direct mechanical link between the stick and rear counterweight. Also referred to as a balance crane, there are no steel winches or cables. While the boom has a single main lift ram there are none on the stick. Instead, as the stick is raised or lowered, the operator is actually changing the position of a pair of hydraulic rams on the 60-tonne rear ballast block. This counter-balances the boom, stick and grab, with gravity doing much of the heavy work. There are many benefits, one of which is the balanced nature helps to minimise tipping when fully loaded, which the manufacturer reckons means it can be mounted to any type of barge, even ones without spud poles.

Herbosch-Kiere has already put this claim to the test. After raising the spud poles at the dredging job in Rotterdam when the fully-loaded 5.5cu.m clam shell was lifted clear of the water it was extended to 27m. “The pontoon tilted by just 20cm,” says Rene. “We need the spud poles to ensure the pontoon remains in position in tidal waters.” Other benefits include the fact that the low power requirement of a maximum of 200kW (300hp) leads to significant fuel savings when compared to other floating diggers, the E-Dredger consuming just 35 lit/hr. However, perhaps the single most important benefit is that conventional cranes often need up to three-quarters of their available power just to move the boom, stick and tool. E-Cranes are claimed to reduce this power requirement by half. It clearly appears to be a win-win situation. However, one disadvantage to the self-propelled nature of the vessel is that it needs a captain and a crew of four, whereas most other backhoe dredgers can get away with the slightly cheaper option of a barge master and two further staff. Albatros skipper Henk Hakvoort not only controls the pontoon’s movements, but also raises and lowers the three spuds from the bridge, a job normally carried out from the excavator cab. This leaves the E-Dredger operator free to concentrate on the job in hand. Rene is provided with two underwater aids. The first, a simple 5mlong flag pole attached to the tool, provides him with a rough idea that a block is lying at the correct

The self-propelled nature is a big feature of the E-Dredger, allowing it to travel all over the world under its own steam.

A special operator for a special machine For the past 42 years operator Rene Hoffmans has built up a wealth of knowledge behind excavator controls, initially with wheeled Atlas and Poclain machines, followed by longer stints with larger tracked excavators, including a Komatsu PC650 and Hitachi EX800. For the past 22 years he has worked in the dredging world, with his major claim to fame being eight months behind the controls of the Komatsu PC3000 mounted to the pontoon Maricavor at job sites in Denmark and St Petersburg. Three years ago, he was approached by Herbosch-Kiere who was seeking an operator for the E-Dredger. They were looking for someone who was not afraid to work long 12- to 13-hour days, and prepared to travel. Rene was keen to accept the challenge. He soon discovered that the E-Dredger was a completely different animal than what he was used to sitting on. “It is much lighter than the Maricavor and cannot dig with a backhoe bucket,” he says. However, he quickly warmed to his new role, and now finds the E-Dredger exhilarating. “With a fully loaded bucket, the Maricavor’s boom and stick have to be drawn up close to the front of the excavator before it can be swung. The E-Dredger has no problems lifting 15 tonnes and swivelling even when the boom is fully extended to 27m. “During 42 years of excavator driving I have to admit that I have never sat on such a fantastic and comfortable machine.”

angle, while sophisticated computer aids show him exactly which grid to place a block into. Despite these two main aids, daily output is largely governed on the availability of a vessel to remove an empty barge – which when full carries 60 blocks – and replacing it with another one, a job that often takes a few hours. Because of this the Albatros operator reckons to shift 60 blocks during a 12-hour shift. However, his best day so far was 140 blocks.

DREDGING POTENTIAL When the current block-laying job is done, the machine could once again be called on to dredge. As a dredger the E-Dredger has a couple of nifty features. For instance, the open design of the stick is interesting. Featuring a series of holes, the construction is claimed to eliminate any buoyancy problems when it dips under water. Then there is the automatic E-Dredger Superlift mode, which helps to reduce the need to discharge material from an overloaded grab when exiting the water. As a rule, when a fully loaded grab breaks the surface the weight increases so it is common practice to open the tines slightly to dump some of the material. Not anymore because in the working mode the system senses the extra weight and automatically shifts to the Superlift mode to assure the grab can still be handled. Working at a lower speed to reduce the dynamic effects on the E-Dredger, this is a useful feature when dredging in polluted areas where opening a grab could release material into the waterway.

“The system slows the speed of movements, but it does work,” says Rene. The Belgian manufacturer is clearly excited by its latest creation and not just with the fact that it has proved its value in accurately positioning concrete blocks at depth and reach, but also with its ability to perform a multitude of other tasks. When the pontoon first took to the water in late 2009 its first job was dredging the Port of Rotterdam, and since then it has often been used for dredging purposes, and the Belgian manufacturer is keen to promote its capability of dredging to depths of 19m. Strictly speaking, the Albatros is not the first E-Crane to go on to a pontoon for underwater digging. A decade ago, a pair of older 1000 series machines were married to pontoons for a Dutch dredging specialist. The first spends all its time in the Middle East, and by all accounts has given good service. Herbosch-Kiere fully expects to get 50 years of service from the pontoon. With a few electrical changes along the way E-Crane says there is no reason why the E-Dredger should not be able to provide the same length of service. What’s more, if the company fails to obtain sufficient dredging works, then the customer always has the option to remove the machine from the pontoon and reunite it with its bottom half.

Above and Below: Using a specially-designed clamp made in Italy by Negrini, the E-Dredger has no problems whatever shifting 15-tonne HARO blocks.

The hollow structure of the dipper stick is designed to overcome buoyancy issues when working underwater

Left: Operator Rene Hoffmans with the J&B-made 3.5cu.m round-nose grab. Fitted with four-cylinders, it is designed to work in very hard soils with a pressure of 400kg/sq.cm.

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Operator Rene Hoffmans confirms that when compared to excavator-based backhoe dredgers, the machine is amazingly quiet; a useful feature when working closer to shore near residential areas. This quiet running nature is not limited just to the exterior because noise levels inside the cab are an incredibly low 20 decibels. “The only noises I can hear in the cab are the whirring of the computers and the humming of the heater,” he says. Another notable feature is the Albatros’ compact nature. With the cab lowered, the package sits quite low on the deck, allowing it to squeeze under even quite low bridges and obstructions, while the tailswing is just 7.5m. Finally, the most obvious difference between the Albatros and all the other pontoon-based machines we have featured during recent years is the lack of

boom and stick cylinders. Instead, E stands for equilibrium, and a key feature of the parallelogramstyle boom is that it provides a direct mechanical link between the stick and rear counterweight. Also referred to as a balance crane, there are no steel winches or cables. While the boom has a single main lift ram there are none on the stick. Instead, as the stick is raised or lowered, the operator is actually changing the position of a pair of hydraulic rams on the 60-tonne rear ballast block. This counter-balances the boom, stick and grab, with gravity doing much of the heavy work. There are many benefits, one of which is the balanced nature helps to minimise tipping when fully loaded, which the manufacturer reckons means it can be mounted to any type of barge, even ones without spud poles.

Herbosch-Kiere has already put this claim to the test. After raising the spud poles at the dredging job in Rotterdam when the fully-loaded 5.5cu.m clam shell was lifted clear of the water it was extended to 27m. “The pontoon tilted by just 20cm,” says Rene. “We need the spud poles to ensure the pontoon remains in position in tidal waters.” Other benefits include the fact that the low power requirement of a maximum of 200kW (300hp) leads to significant fuel savings when compared to other floating diggers, the E-Dredger consuming just 35 lit/hr. However, perhaps the single most important benefit is that conventional cranes often need up to three-quarters of their available power just to move the boom, stick and tool. E-Cranes are claimed to reduce this power requirement by half. It clearly appears to be a win-win situation. However, one disadvantage to the self-propelled nature of the vessel is that it needs a captain and a crew of four, whereas most other backhoe dredgers can get away with the slightly cheaper option of a barge master and two further staff. Albatros skipper Henk Hakvoort not only controls the pontoon’s movements, but also raises and lowers the three spuds from the bridge, a job normally carried out from the excavator cab. This leaves the E-Dredger operator free to concentrate on the job in hand. Rene is provided with two underwater aids. The first, a simple 5mlong flag pole attached to the tool, provides him with a rough idea that a block is lying at the correct

The self-propelled nature is a big feature of the E-Dredger, allowing it to travel all over the world under its own steam.

A special operator for a special machine For the past 42 years operator Rene Hoffmans has built up a wealth of knowledge behind excavator controls, initially with wheeled Atlas and Poclain machines, followed by longer stints with larger tracked excavators, including a Komatsu PC650 and Hitachi EX800. For the past 22 years he has worked in the dredging world, with his major claim to fame being eight months behind the controls of the Komatsu PC3000 mounted to the pontoon Maricavor at job sites in Denmark and St Petersburg. Three years ago, he was approached by Herbosch-Kiere who was seeking an operator for the E-Dredger. They were looking for someone who was not afraid to work long 12- to 13-hour days, and prepared to travel. Rene was keen to accept the challenge. He soon discovered that the E-Dredger was a completely different animal than what he was used to sitting on. “It is much lighter than the Maricavor and cannot dig with a backhoe bucket,” he says. However, he quickly warmed to his new role, and now finds the E-Dredger exhilarating. “With a fully loaded bucket, the Maricavor’s boom and stick have to be drawn up close to the front of the excavator before it can be swung. The E-Dredger has no problems lifting 15 tonnes and swivelling even when the boom is fully extended to 27m. “During 42 years of excavator driving I have to admit that I have never sat on such a fantastic and comfortable machine.”

angle, while sophisticated computer aids show him exactly which grid to place a block into. Despite these two main aids, daily output is largely governed on the availability of a vessel to remove an empty barge – which when full carries 60 blocks – and replacing it with another one, a job that often takes a few hours. Because of this the Albatros operator reckons to shift 60 blocks during a 12-hour shift. However, his best day so far was 140 blocks.

DREDGING POTENTIAL When the current block-laying job is done, the machine could once again be called on to dredge. As a dredger the E-Dredger has a couple of nifty features. For instance, the open design of the stick is interesting. Featuring a series of holes, the construction is claimed to eliminate any buoyancy problems when it dips under water. Then there is the automatic E-Dredger Superlift mode, which helps to reduce the need to discharge material from an overloaded grab when exiting the water. As a rule, when a fully loaded grab breaks the surface the weight increases so it is common practice to open the tines slightly to dump some of the material. Not anymore because in the working mode the system senses the extra weight and automatically shifts to the Superlift mode to assure the grab can still be handled. Working at a lower speed to reduce the dynamic effects on the E-Dredger, this is a useful feature when dredging in polluted areas where opening a grab could release material into the waterway.

“The system slows the speed of movements, but it does work,” says Rene. The Belgian manufacturer is clearly excited by its latest creation and not just with the fact that it has proved its value in accurately positioning concrete blocks at depth and reach, but also with its ability to perform a multitude of other tasks. When the pontoon first took to the water in late 2009 its first job was dredging the Port of Rotterdam, and since then it has often been used for dredging purposes, and the Belgian manufacturer is keen to promote its capability of dredging to depths of 19m. Strictly speaking, the Albatros is not the first E-Crane to go on to a pontoon for underwater digging. A decade ago, a pair of older 1000 series machines were married to pontoons for a Dutch dredging specialist. The first spends all its time in the Middle East, and by all accounts has given good service. Herbosch-Kiere fully expects to get 50 years of service from the pontoon. With a few electrical changes along the way E-Crane says there is no reason why the E-Dredger should not be able to provide the same length of service. What’s more, if the company fails to obtain sufficient dredging works, then the customer always has the option to remove the machine from the pontoon and reunite it with its bottom half.

Above and Below: Using a specially-designed clamp made in Italy by Negrini, the E-Dredger has no problems whatever shifting 15-tonne HARO blocks.

The hollow structure of the dipper stick is designed to overcome buoyancy issues when working underwater

Left: Operator Rene Hoffmans with the J&B-made 3.5cu.m round-nose grab. Fitted with four-cylinders, it is designed to work in very hard soils with a pressure of 400kg/sq.cm.

JANUARY 2012 EARTHMOVERS

5

High-Flying Albatros  

A one-of-a-kind floating marvel is currently helping to complete the second of two new breakwaters at the Belgian Port of Ostend. Steven Val...