Saturday windstorm damages 74 shipping containers at Wando Terminal July 31, 2012

“Wind gusts described by the State Ports Authority as “an unexpected microburst of about 70 mph” were enough to push a rail-mounted 1,500-ton crane down the dock, where it damaged three slightly smaller cranes in a chain-reaction crash around 6:20 p.m.

Also at the terminal, 74 metal shipping containers, 19 of which were loaded with various cargo, were damaged according to the SPA.

“All four cranes have sustained some damage and are confined to the southern end, obstructing a portion of berth one,” an authority report said Monday. “A response team is on site to clean up hydraulic fluid that leaked from the affected cranes. No fluid entered the harbor.”

The Wando terminal has four berths and 11 cranes. The damaged cranes included the terminal’s three smallest cranes and a super-post-Panamax crane.

The older cranes can handle container ships that are 18 shipping containers wide, while the super-post-Panamax cranes can handle ships 22 containers wide.

“My understanding is that it will not hurt our ability to berth ships at the dock,” said SPA spokeswoman Allison Skipper. “It will, unfortunately, mean we have 7 cranes to work with instead of 11.”

An initial estimate from the SPA anticipates it could take from one to three months to put the cranes back in operation, depending on the damage and availability of parts.

The SPA in February spent about $5 million to move two super-post-Panamax cranes from the Columbus Street Terminal to the Wando Welch Terminal. Those cranes were not damaged.

Engineering firm Shaw GBB, which has done previous crane work for the Ports Authority, including the relocation of the two cranes from Columbus Street Terminal, will survey the damaged cranes, according to the SPA.

The authority is insured for such damage, and there are not yet any cost estimates, Skipper said.

Skipper said the SPA takes precautions when tropical storms are expected, but Saturday’s severe thunderstorm was worse than forecast.

The National Weather Service in Charleston had issued a severe thunderstorm warning for parts of Berkeley and Charleston counties, including the Wando area, until 7 p.m. Saturday. The warning said the storm could “bring damaging winds in excess of 60 mph.” — Post & Courier


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