Ship carrying container cranes collides with dredge barge

The 38,519-gross-ton heavy-load carrier Zhen Hua 16, carrying four new container cranes, collided with the dredge barge Cherokee in the Port of Wilmington, N.C., at about 1715 on Feb. 3.
As Zhen Hua 16 approached a planned starboard turn to bring the vessel’s port side to the docks, the arms at the back of all four cranes, sticking out over the vessel’s port side, struck two 60-foot-tall frames on the dredge. Zhen Hua 16 is 138 feet wide. With the crane booms fully extended, the vessel is over 400 feet wide, according to Susan Clizbe, spokeswoman for North Carolina State Ports Authority, which runs the Port of Wilmington. When Zhen Hua 16 was in the Port of Wilmington, the four cranes were positioned so that the booms stuck out over the ship’s starboard side at an angle of 30° above horizontal, said Clizbe.
Zhen Hua 16 was moving under its own power at the time of the collision, according to Coast Guard Lt. Justin Westmiller of Sector North Carolina. Tugs owned by Cape Fear Towing Co. of Leland, N.C., were standing by to assist, but “did not have positive control” of the ship, said Westmiller.
Metal parts on all four cranes were damaged, including catwalks, railings and access platforms. A cable was more seriously damaged on one crane, she said. It is unclear how badly the dredge barge, operated by Southern Dredging Co. of Johns Island, S.C., was damaged.
The U.S. Coast Guard closed the Cape Fear River to all boat traffic from its mouth to the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, between 1300 and 1700 on Feb. 3 to allow Zhen Hua 16 to transit the river safely. Zhen Hua 16 was trying to maneuver in the turning basin, according to Clizbe. At the time of the incident, the dredge was not operating and was anchored at the outer edge of the turning basin, outside of the channel. “There was enough room for the other vessel to navigate safely through there,” Westmiller said.
At the time of the incident, a docking pilot from North Carolina Ports was on board Zhen Hua 16, Westmiller said. North Carolina Ports purchased the four 100-foot gauge container cranes from Shanghai Zhenhua Port Machinery Co. for $33.4 million. The company also has a shipping division, which manages the St. Vincent-flagged vessel.
Zhen Hua 16 left Shanghai on Dec. 4, 2006, with the cranes, traveling around the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, since the cranes were too big for the Suez or Panama Canals. During the voyage, the booms of the cranes were in the “up” position. In order to clear power lines across the Cape Fear River, the crane booms were lowered to about 30°, according to Clizbe.

North Carolina Ports is not liable for the damage to the cranes, said Clizbe. “We don’t own the cranes until they are installed and running,” she said. The incident did not delay the installation of the cranes.  All four cranes were set up by March 15 and began work on April 9, loading and unloading containers from the transport vessel YM Shanghai, said Clizbe.

By Professional Mariner Staff