Piling Canada

The Pacific Lifter

PPM introduces the biggest crane in Seattle since Frasier
Written by Jim Chliboyko
December 2018

PPM introduces the biggest crane in Seattle since Frasier

By Jim Chliboyko

To paraphrase a line from Jaws, there comes a time when any growing construction company says to themselves, “We’re going to need a bigger crane.”

This was the thought that occurred to those at the Seattle-based company Pacific Pile & Marine (PPM). The ten-year-old company saw the industry shifting towards more modularized construction and heavier materials to achieve the design criteria of today’s evolving infrastructure. To be better positioned for work demanding a larger class of crane, they had added several Demag CC 2500 crawler cranes and, most recently, the floating crane known as the Pacific Lifter. With a 1,000-ton lifting capacity, it is the largest floating crane on the west coast.

“The largest class we had previously over water was a Manitowoc 4600 Series 4 Ringer crane at 600 tons,” said Kustaa Mansfield, business development manager at Pacific Pile & Marine. “In discussing upcoming opportunities with clients, we recognized there was a need in the market to upsize our capacity, so we started down that path.”

The Pacific Lifter has a long-standing history in the heavy lift industry; 2019 marks 50 years since it was commissioned in 1969 and equipped with an American Hoist & Derrick 509 Revolver for constructing offshore platforms. At the time, it was the largest floating crane in North America. For years, it operated in Mexican waters, conducting offshore marine construction and pipeline activities, until the mid-1980s when the offshore market slowed. In early 2000s, the floating crane was upgraded and outfitted with pipe lay gear. Prior to coming to PPM, the crane was used on a limited basis for minor platform support, repair and maintenance work. Modern platforms require even larger equipment. These days the American Model 509 Revolver is more commonly used for servicing and decommissioning existing platforms.

Perhaps because of its size or perhaps because of the high-profile assignment it has drawn, the Pacific Lifter is getting some notable attention (more than cranes barges usually do). The barge itself measures 400 feet by 106 feet. Whether or not it’s explicitly identified, it’s often seen in photos of the Seattle waterfront. One mention from the Pacific Northwest insurance firm Parker, Smith & Feek, correctly noted that the barge length is two-thirds the height of the Seattle Space Needle and the height of the crane is double that of Seattle’s Great Wheel; the City’s giant Ferris wheel on Pier 57. (Together, the barge and crane are about 320 feet off the water.) The barge also has a few special features, such as living quarters and a helipad.

When not in use, the Pacific Lifter homeports at PPM’s waterfront facility along the Duwamish Waterway, an industrialized portion of Washington State’s Green River, south of downtown Seattle.

The Pacific Lifter was towed from Mexico to Seattle, Wash. Its journey to Seattle began in Tuxpan, down on the east coast of Mexico, to Ensanada, on Mexico’s Pacific coast, via the Panama Canal. There, the vessel was transferred to Boyer Towing and transported to Seattle by their 4,000 hp tug, Billie H.

“Shortly after it arrived, we started readying it for service,” said Mansfield. “This included replacing more than 3.5 miles of crane wire between the main, auxiliary and whip lines.”

PPM is already putting the crane to good use. It is placing precast concrete panels and, recently, a pedestrian bridge for the Seattle Multimodal Terminal at Colman Dock, a $350-million project for Washington State Ferries.

At an estimated $350 million, the multi-year Colman Dock job is the largest heavy civil GC/CM delivery undertaken by Washington State Ferries.

Colman Dock in Seattle, designed by engineer James Colman, was originally built in 1882. It’s been rebuilt and has changed location over the years, but has become an institutional part of Seattle’s transportation infrastructure, providing a transportation hub to millions of annual commuters around Puget Sound.

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation project website, “Washington State Ferries is replacing the aging and seismically vulnerable parts of Colman Dock in Seattle in order to maintain its critical role.” Housed on the Seattle waterfront’s Pier 52, it also happens to be Washington State Ferries’ largest facility, their flagship terminal and is responsible for moving more than 10 million travellers each year.

Otherwise, the Colman Dock job involves replacing sections of dock, as well as entire buildings, adding elements such as walkways, staircases, elevators and bicycle-specific infrastructure. Another element of the project is to remove the 7,400 creosote-treated wooden piles that has held up the dock all these years. The project itself is long term, and is scheduled for completion in early 2023.

In addition to the activity on Pier 52, PPM is performing several other large projects along the Seattle Waterfront including the Pier 62/63 rebuild and removal of ship-to-shore cranes at Terminals 18 and 46 where their equipment, including the Pacific Lifter, can be seen in action.

There is great enthusiasm for the opportunities the Pacific Lifter brings to the company, such as a larger presence in transportation infrastructure for bridge construction and deconstruction. The Pacific Lifter offers PPM some distinct advantages and sets them apart for heavy lift and marine infrastructure services. Of course, its range isn’t just limited to the Seattle waterfront.

“The type of reach and capacity our crane has is just incredible,” says Mansfield. “It opens up some exciting possibilities.”

PPM’s Pacific Lifter is currently being considered for several notable projects involving bridge replacements, offshore facility construction and large steel structure deconstruction and decommissioning.

The company itself has about 150 employees and is active all along the West Coast, including British Columbia and Alaska, where the company has regional offices. PPM isn’t limited to marine work and performs projects in such landlocked states as Montana and Idaho and other non-marine environments as well; often involving driven, drilled or bored foundations or remote work on dams.

Whatever lies ahead, the acquisition of an asset as dynamic as the Pacific Lifter ensures that Pacific Pile & Marine will be well-equipped for the future. 🍁

Category: Education

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