Pioneer among straddle-carriers

HHLA has overhauled one of the world’s oldest still functioning straddle carriers, also known as van carriers and presented it to Hamburg Hafenmuseum.


FIRST STEel boxes from overseas

By 1968 more and more of these steel boxes were arriving from overseas. Nobody had reckoned with containers in such quantities. The first container gantry cranes had admittedly been erected at Burchardkai in 1967. The ships berthing in the old port were not equipped, however, for what awaited them. “So we lifted the first containers off the deck with cranes,” recalls Siegfried Fenger. The trained engine fitter is meanwhile 65 and a pensioner. Fenger and his colleagues in the main workshop, then located in Amerikastrasse, soon needed to think up some way of transporting the numerous boxes away from the quay wall fast and effectively.


cargo handling RApidly speeded up

They hit upon the pph 26 straddle carrier manufactured by Peiner, which caused a technological quantum leap in container handling. This straddle carrier consisted of a frame, and a top-spreader suspended in this, which could be moved vertically using winches. The frame was fitted with a propulsion unit and eight wheels, and the driver’s cabin was mounted on top of the front of the frame. The vehicle was positioned above a container lying on the ground or on a truck, and its hydraulically operated spreader grabbed the container’s four corner fittings and lifted it. Known locally as a van carrier, in 1971 this Type VC 26 straddle carrier was the first of its type to be built, being delivered to HHLA a year later and constantly further developed down the years.


REVOLUTIONaRy simplification of work

“It was already capable back then of lifting two containers,” remembers Siegfried Fenger, something that speeded up handling several times over. The VC 26 itself weighed 38 tons and also a load capacity of 30 tons (one 40-ft container). The continuous power rating of its speed-regulated diesel engine was approx. 200 horsepower. With a load of 20 tons, the vehicle could therefore accelerate up to a speed of 40 kph. However, straddle carriers have meanwhile been subject to much further development. It is not just that the material used is considerably sturdier to cater for the heavier demands of three-shift operation. The new generation stack containers “four high”, or in four vertical layers, and run for up to 50,000 operating hours. The computer-controlled cockpits of the state-of-the-art straddle carrier immensely simplify the work of our HHLA colleagues. “All the same, the VC 26 revolutionized and greatly simplified our work at the time,” says Siegfried Fenger.


retired after 37,030 operating hours

HHLA’s first VC 26 reached the end of the road on 5 June 1991, after 37,030 operating hours. A group of VC drivers voiced support for the preservation of the vehicle, which was ceremonially presented to the Hafenmuseum on 29 August this year , when at 10.40 the floating crane HHLA II heaved the historic straddle-carrier over the quay wall at Hansahöft. The Peiner straddle-carrier made its way from there to its final position in the museum. The technology of the VC 26 was basically identical with that of today’s successor models. However, the modern vehicles are distinctly more powerful and efficient and more sustainable.