Ken Canter, executive director of the Paducah-McCracken County Riverport Authority, is pretty proud of the massive new tower crane now in operation. And, it's no wonder.
"It's the largest flat-top crane in North America," Canter said. "It's a pretty big deal."
The crane has a lift capacity of 53 tons at 110 feet from the tower, and 35 tons at 185 feet from the tower. The hook height is 75 feet, and the crane is 115 feet tall. The boom length measures 313 feet. The previously used crane had a 20-ton capacity.
According to Canter, the riverport will be able to handle larger cargo arriving on barges expected with the planned expansion of the Panama Canal. That project, to make the canal wider and deeper, is scheduled to be completed within the next year or two.
Larger ships carrying container cargo from overseas may travel more often through the larger canal, bypassing West Coast ports where they so frequently stop now. Those ships could travel on to the Gulf of Mexico and more East Coast ports, bringing more product and materials on the inland waterways.
"It (the new crane) was necessary for continuing our current business and to handle future business," Canter said. The riverport handles approximately 900,000 tons of cargo a year, which translates into about 400 barges, according to Canter. The increased lifting capacity will provide a greater efficiency of operations, reducing the time spent on each barge, he said.
Construction of the crane and the foundation cell to support it cost approximately $4 million, Canter said. "I'm very pleased with the changes, and the investment, which will allow us to do bigger and better things."
The director likes the description of the riverport as "America's newest integrated logistics center." As for the distinction of having the largest tower crane of its kind, he said: "This is a brand new version. We may hold the record for the largest in North America for a while."
Contact David Zoeller, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.