Nfld. & Labrador

In Argentia? Check out one of the world's largest cranes at work

Husky Energy's West White Rose Project construction site is currently home to a really, really, really big crane.

The crane's boom stretches the length of two NHL-sized rinks into the sky

The AL.SK350 is one of the largest land-based cranes in the world. (Twitter)

There's a neck-stretching sight dominating the skyline in Argentia these days, as one of the world's largest land-based cranes gets to work at Husky Energy's West White Rose Project.

The massive AL.SK350 crane comes with some massive specs.

It can lift up to 5,000 tonnes. Its boom is 124 metres long — longer than two NHL-sized ice rinks placed end to end.

It arrived in Newfoundland in 200 shipping containers, requiring 300-tonne cranes just to piece it together.

Impressive, but none of that is why it's so vital to Husky's operations, as workers piece together a platform that will eventually be floated out to sea and capture offshore oil.

"The real purpose of this crane is just its reach," said Sandy Nairn, vice-president of the West White Rose Project.

ALE designed and built the crane, part of a line of cranes it launched in 2013, and the company website describes the AL.SK350 as "the largest capacity land-based crane in the world by some distance." 

That 163-metre reach means it can lift almost anything on the Argentia site, even though the crane itself is stationary. That's a necessary feature as the platform is assembled together on dry land.

The first big lift will be Thursday or Friday, Nairn said, when the crane will hoist a deck about 23 metres in diameter and weighing about 174 tonnes. In the hour or two it takes for such a load to swing through the air, Nairn said, all other work grinds to a standstill.

"Everything virtually stops, because you cannot lift heavy loads over working people," he said.

Such a large piece of equipment comes with a large price tag, although Nairn is tight-lipped about the exact total.

"It's very expensive," he said. "We negotiated a good deal, though."

The crane will be in Argentia until early 2020, when it will be then broken down again into its small parts and shipped off to its next international destination. 

Nairn said construction progress on site has been steady, with the overall project about 44 per cent complete and everything ticking along.

"That's testimony to the workforce we have here in Newfoundland," he said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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