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Handling ships crane - maintenance of wires, greasing & protection

Vessels fitted with cargo cranes will always be described accordingly in charter parties and will, on most occasions be required to load/discharge using this equipment. Any breakdown or sub standard operation of the ship's cranes will inevitably result in a claim for off-hire time from the Charterers. This always proves to be very expensive for the Owners and, if regular breakdowns of cargo cranes occur, the vessel's reputation will become tarnished, and may eventually be reflected in the vessel's future earnings


The Master has the overall responsibility for ensuring that the vessel's cargo cranes are being adequately maintained and that he receives regular updates from the Chief Engineer and Chief Officer on their condition. Any defects which affect their operation or efficiency are to be reported to the relevant Management Office immediately, who will decide what course of action is to be taken.

Typical rope luffed crane
Fig:Typical rope luffed crane

In most cases however, repairs and maintenance are to be carried out by the ship's Officers and crew. The Chief Engineer is directly responsible for all crane maintenance and under his supervision and assistance, the Electrical Engineer and other ship's Engineer Officers are to carry out all necessary repairs and maintenance to ensure that the vessel's cranes are always in good working order during the loading and discharging operations with due regard to safety.

It is the joint responsibility of the Chief Engineer and the Chief Officer to ensure that all moving parts are adequately greased, machinery being the Chief Engineer's responsibility, and wires, sheaves etc the Chief Officer's responsibility, although they must liase closely to determine a proper and suitable greasing programme, always taking into account the amount of use the cranes have been or will be subjected to. General maintenance of the crane exteriors and fittings is the responsibility of the Chief Officer.

Repair to crane jibs

On some vessels, it was reported that the ship's staff had carried out unauthorised repairs to crane jibs by cropping and welding inserts over damaged or wasted sections. Crane jibs are subject to heavy, fluctuating loads and must be periodically inspected, surveyed, load-tested and certified. They are often made of high-tensile, for which special procedures have to be observed during repairs.

Therefore, repairs must be carried out only in consultation with the manufacturer and classification society concerned. Any damage noticed to crane jibs must be reported to the ship owner/manager and advice sought before carrying out any kind of repair.

Wires -greasing - protection

Apart from the mechanical stresses placed on crane wires during operation, the factors most affecting their working life are:- Regular application of good quality wire rope grease will fulfil both purposes. It is the responsibility of the Chief Officer to ensure that sufficient stocks of suitable grease are held on board.

Because most wire greasing will be done with the jibs in the stowed position, there are certain parts of each wire which will be less accessible. These are those parts of the hoist and luff wires which lie on a sheave, and those parts which lie inside the crane structure. Attention must be paid to the ends of the wires where they are secured, as this part of the wire is often very inaccessible and overlooked. It is essential that any extra time required, is taken to ensure adequate protection in this area.

There are no circumstances which can excuse a vessel arriving in port, where the deck cranes are to be used, with the wires in a dry condition. However, it must be remembered that, especially in very warm weather, that if the crane wires have been over greased it is possible that the grease may begin to run and drop onto the cargo. This must also be avoided as it may result in cargo damage claims.

Wires maintenance & how to avoid mechanical damage

Provided that the grooves in the sheaves are in good order and that the wire is allowed to run free and not be dragged over coamings, the crane wire should not suffer mechanical damage. The Duty Officer must always be on the lookout for bad practices by crane operators, and stop any abuse of the ship's equipment. The Chief Officer must be informed immediately if such bad practices have been witnessed in order that an appropriate claim can be made.

Standard regulations dictate that a wire must be replaced when 10% of the visible strands are broken within a length of nineteen times the diameter. This is a fair guideline and is to be the worst condition into which the wire is allowed to fall, before replacing it. Before arrival at loading/discharging ports, the wires must be checked for broken strands, by sighting along the length of the wire in both directions. It is inexcusable for any vessel to arrive in port and suffer a failure of port/inspection due to a faulty wire. This must be discovered early enough to change the wire in time to commence cargo operations without delay to the vessel, and is the responsibility of the Chief Officer.

Crane windows / accesses

Time has been lost in the past through vessels arriving in a port where cargo is to be worked, using ship's cranes, and the stevedores have refused to drive them due to dirty windows, untidy and dirty cabs, broken seats and operating levers, faulty ventilation and/or heating, slippery oily accesses and ladders and hand rails in poor or unsafe condition.

It is the duty of the Chief Officer to inspect the cranes prior to arrival with respect to the above items, and it is also his responsibility to ensure that any such defects are rectified before the stevedores come on board. During cargo operations it is the responsibility of the Duty Officer to ensure that the cranes remain in good condition throughout the load/discharge and any subsequent defects are brought to the attention of the Chief Officer.


The S.W.L. of the cranes must be clearly marked in a conspicuous position on the crane jib, and it must be ascertained by the Chief Officer that all parties concerned with the load/discharge operation are aware of the maximum capacity of cranes, and that this is not exceeded. The weight of grabs, spotters, or other cargo handling equipment attached to the hook must always be taken into account.

Securing cargo cranes prior proceeding to sea

It is mandatory that, on every occasion, and without exception, crane jibs are lowered into the jib crutches and secured before putting to sea. The electric plugs and sockets are to be covered against entry of water, and the electric cable is to be hove sufficiently tight to prevent chaffing when the vessel is working in a seaway.

All crane windows, doors and ventilation hatches are to be closed and any portable guardrails and/or chains to be replaced. If your vessel carried grabs or other cargo handling equipment, they shall be well secured on every occasion before the vessel proceeds to sea. Under no circumstances should they be left unsecured, even during short coastwise sea passage.

Ships crane secured at sea
Fig:Ships crane secured at sea

Related articles :

Inspection, testing & certification of ships lifting gears

Crane safety checks prior to cargo operation

Safe working practice while operating ships lifting equipment

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Operation of sea going bulk carriers involved numerous hazards . Careful planning and exercising due caution for all critical shipboard matters are important . This site is a quick reference to international shipping community with guidance and information on the loading and discharging of modern bulk carriers so as to remain within the limitations as specified by the classification society.
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