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New Controls Help Old Icebreakers

New crane control systems and operator interfaces improve safety, reliability, and flexibility of old ships, making them ready for new missions.

New control systems and operator interfaces for cranes used on old U.S. Coast Guard ships improve safety, reliability, and flexibility, making them ready for new missions.

The Coast Guard has two older polar class icebreakers, the Polar Star and its twin, the Polar Sea, originally launched in 1976 and 1978, respectively. Key pieces of equipment on the Seattle-based research vessels are at the end of their service lives and are scheduled for replacement in the coming months. (The Polar Star is the first of the pair to be overhauled, and the Polar Sea will be next.) Among the items that are being replaced are the hydraulically operated cranes on the bow and stern of each ship. Along with new crane hardware and new hydraulic power units, the Coast Guard wanted to install new crane control systems and operator interfaces that will improve the safety, reliability, and flexibility of the ships’ operations. Allied Systems of Sherwood, Ore., and Concept Systems Inc. of Albany, Ore., experts in material handling and control systems development, did the work.

Each ship has three cranes, one on the bow and two aft. The bow crane handles loads of up to 6,000 lb and is used to lower provisions intended for the ship’s stores into the forward hold. In addition to running the bow crane, the associated hydraulic power units (HPUs) also run the anchor windlasses. The aft cranes are heavy-duty units with operator cabs and a jackknife structure to enable a long reach. They are used for onloading and offloading scientific gear in portable shipping containers (ISO standard conex boxes) and for lifting work boats. Continue Reading →