Samson and Goliath

Samson and Goliath are the twin shipbuilding gantry cranes situated at Queen's Island, Belfast, Northern Ireland. The cranes, which were named after the Biblical figures Samson and Goliath, dominate the Belfast skyline and are landmark structures of the city.


History

The cranes are situated in the shipyard of Harland & Wolff and were constructed by the German engineering firm Krupp, with Goliath being completed in 1969 and Samson in 1974. Goliath stands 96 metres (315 ft) tall, while Samson is taller at 106 metres (348 ft). At the time Harland & Wolff was one of the largest shipbuilders in the world. The announcement that they were to be built was an important event at the time. It signalled that one of Northern Ireland's largest employers was to expand at a time when the country's Troubles were raging, and consequently inward investment was at a low.


Construction

Each crane has a span of 140 metres (459 ft) and can lift loads of up to 840 tonnes to a height of 70 metres (230 ft), making a combined lifting capacity of over 1,600 tonnes, one of the largest in the world. Prior to commissioning, the cranes were tested up to 1,000 tonnes, which bent the gantry downwards by over 30 centimetres (12 in). The dry dock at the base of the cranes is the largest in the world measuring 556m x 93m.


Decline of Harland & Wolff

At its height Harland & Wolff boasted 35,000 employees and a healthy order book, but in the years following the cranes' construction the workforce and business declined. The last ship to be launched at the yard to date was a roll-on/roll-off ferry in March 2003. Since then the yard has restructured itself to focus less on shipbuilding and more on design and structural engineering, as well as ship repair, offshore construction projects and competing for other projects to do with metal engineering and construction. Initially there was concern that the now largely redundant cranes would be demolished. However later in the year they were scheduled as historic monuments under Article 3 of the Historic Monuments and Archaeological Objects (Northern Ireland) Order 1995.

Northern Ireland Office Minister of the time Angela Smith stated: "These cranes are an essential part of our city, our roots and our culture."

The cranes are to be retained as part of the existing dry dock facility within the restructured shipyard, situated adjacent to the Titanic Quarter, a business, light industrial, leisure and residential development on land now surplus to the heavy industrial requirements of the shipyard on Queen's Island. They will continue to be used on ship repair projects as well as potential shipbuilding activities in the future.


Recent history

On 4 April 2007, Samson crashed into the long jib of smaller rail-mounted "Henson" tower crane, sending the smaller crane tumbling to the ground. The smaller crane weighed 95 tonnes and stood at a height of 25 m, compared to Samson's 70 m. Three industrial painters working on another rail-mounted crane were close to the jib as it fell, eventually crashing onto the ground. Information about the incident was not released until mobile-phone footage of the event was published on YouTube.

In October 2007, Goliath re-entered service after five years, an occurrence described by a company spokesperson as underlining the yard's growing workload.


 

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