Superyacht Cranes & Davits

The excitement of boarding a superyacht by tender or from ashore often overshadows the magnificence and quality engineering of the equipment that makes such actions possible. In fact, it is probably fair to say that, when it comes to guests boarding superyachts, they probably never give such equipment even a single thought. But for those of us in the industry who know of such matters, the choice of the right crane, passerelle, boarding ladder or set of davits is of paramount importance.

Passerelles need to be, safe and offer those using them, quick, worry-free access when boarding a superyacht. Good examples are designed to work well and look good, providing elegant and timeless entrances for guests and crew alike.

Cranes and davits that lift boats, tenders, jet skis and other water toys on board need to do so unobtrusively quickly and quietly so that guests are seldom aware of their existence. Bathing platforms that raise and lower into the sea must be faultless and stunningly beautiful when they allow guests easy safe access to the water, while deckhead mounted cranes that service the yachts garage need to work seamlessly when loading or discharging water toys.

There was a time when, to ferry guests ashore, all a yacht needed was a roll up inflatable tender and a portable outboard engine stowed inside the lazarette. Now not only has the roll up tender morphed into a large, inboard-engined, multi passenger carrying, RIB but the lazarette has been forgotten on most yachts and has been fully replaced by a garage. But these advances in size technology and carrying capacity have meant that instead of a single deckhand heaving a roll away dinghy up and onto the deck before inflating it to the point that it can be thrown singlehandedly over the side, superyacht crews now rely on custom built equipment to help them in their tasks.

Fortunately, as demand increased, so too, did the realisation that specialist companies needed to design and build this equipment. Products were brought to market and have for the most part found favour with the yacht Captain and their crew. Today’s market allows them to select from a wide range of standard modular solutions or fully-customised boarding equipment to meet their wishes and demands.

To reach the quay, passerelles typically have to offer a reach of up to 10 metres or more. The Dutch engineering firm, Cramm offer customised passerelles in any desired length. Feebe is another Dutch engineering specialist that builds quality overhead cranes used inside the garages of some of the worlds largest and best run superyachts. UMT Marine in Fort Lauderdale have a range of davits and deck cranes to suit any size of yacht while Fuchs Cranes of Germany are acknowledged favourites of German yacht builders the likes of Lurssen, Aberking Rassmussen, and Nobiskrug. Hydromar, based in Holland has the market well sown up given that it owns both the Cramm brand and that of Swissway Marine, both of who make quality kit. So too does Freebe, a Dutch company with 20 years worth of experience. When it comes to maintenance, Geetch in Monaco offer all the back up engineering and servicing you will ever need to keep this kit pristine and working to perfection

Based on the available space, manufacturers such as Cramm, Hydromar and Seawalk offer various different types of passerelles: non-telescopic, single telescopic and double telescopic, with non-telescopic requiring the most build-in space and the double telescopic the least. When space is extremely limited on the yacht, the extendable lorry offers a good space-saving solution. The double telescopic lorry system can store two lorries on top of each other, reducing the required length enormously compared to a standard lorry; the height of the box is doubled to just only 650 mm. This space saving enables other equipment and systems to take maximum advantage of the available space in the yacht.

Passerelles made this way of lightweight construction, manufactured from aluminium results in a device with high torque stiffness, minimal bending and a weight reduction of 25% to 35% compared to their alternatives. Most of the better passerelles offer two standard systems for ease of use in every docking position. The fixed passerelle is ideal for docking with the stern to quay, where no rotation is needed to board the yacht. Using a rotating slewing frame, rotating passerelles can be swung towards the quay at an angle of 90° on both sides. Handy, when docking and there is an obstacle is in the way, the slewing frame can easily reposition a passerelle to the sides without the need to re-dock the yacht.

Boarding Ladders
Philippus Feenstra, owner of Feebe Boarding Equipment works alongside Nynke Rijpkema to design, make and install some of the worlds most ingenious superyacht boarding solutions . he says, “We are one of the best brands in Holland, and I believe Holland is THE place to go for yachts and equipment, I’ve been told the Dutch are masters in combining good aesthetics and reliability. We have been arounds since 2008 and we’re still steadily growing. The number of Feebe-fans is increasing, we hear that a lot in the market. We like the positive feedback and also any kind of feedback, we’ve been around for quite some time and we are still learning. We are a private owned company, the owners are in the company every day, and we have no external shareholders to please, so we can fully focus on meeting expectations.” Talking about some of the company’s most recent successful projects, Nynke Rijpkema said, “We have combined a fold-out balcony with and integrated side boarding ladder. We have made cranes able to lift 6 tonnes, but in stored position very low profile so it is hidden behind the bulwark, and not interfering with the yacht’s lines.”

Barry McCrindle the Project manager, chief engineer, and owner’s representative provides a solid endorsement saying. “For future projects my first stop would be Feebe without question and without any doubt.” He explained, “With the difficult task of a short lead time on a bespoke crane in combination with a foremast, Feebe was the only company that would take on the tight timeline for delivery of the crane for Sanoo, a 61m classic Feadship. From start to finish Feebe delivered what was asked without question. The final product worked flawlessly and any requests for slight changes by the crew during the first season were dealt with swiftly and with complete professionalism.

Deck Cranes
Deck cranes are indispensable on a yacht, for essential jobs such as loading materials, jet skis, dinghies, and provisions aboard. Generally speaking, base frames and booms are made of stainless steel, though on some cranes, aluminium is also used. Cranes on superyachts need to be suitable for handling stores, MOB and SOLAS purposes and should be capable of completing all functions under its full Safe Working Load (SWL) load, and in all positions. In some cases, dependent on needs and location, articulated boom designs are employed. Hydromar, Fuchs and Feebe are all well established and competent manufacturers and each offer models to suit just about every situation offering ease of operation with a wide range of standard electric drives, hydraulics and controls.

In American terminology, the word for deck crane is davit and American based, UMT’s VX davit is a robust and versatile yacht crane. It can be mounted using a low profile base configuration or a higher profile pedestal base. It is the ideal crane for any yacht 24 metres and above with larger capacity and reach requirements. It can be mounted on any deck using a regular or rotating standpipe or pedestal base.

Remco Zeevaarder is the Sales Manager at Cramm Yachting Systems a position he has held for the last four years. He is no stranger to the industry having joined it some 30 years ago over which period he has worked for, amongst others, Rondal. He says Cramm is best known for their high quality custom solutions where special requirements have to be met. We design and build cranes that fit the yacht, whereas others offer a crane around which the yacht needs to be designed. In other words, we go the extra mile and try to make life easier for our clients. Most times this means working around space constrictions.

Since 2006, Martin Kranenburg has been the Technical Director at Van Driel B.V. in Holland and is responsible for the technical side of new build and service. He began working for the firm on the shop floor in 1992 and knows a great deal about the way lifting gear works. He tells us, “80 % of our products are custom made by us at the request of the client, so if a crane needs to fit inside a superstructure, we engineer it first in 3D to make it fit and flush with the surroundings. Workmanship to the highest quality, detail and finish are all important to us.

Garage Cranes
Overhead cranes, sometimes called garage cranes, can be a highly functional hoisting solution aboard a yacht. Overhead cranes generally employ one or two extendable/retractable booms that can pass through an opening in the hull of the yacht. Booms feature attached lifting points to which the tender and other items can be secured.

There are, generally speaking, two different types of garage cranes: Sliding beam and Slewing beam. Sliding beam cranes are the most employed and have SWLs that range from 500 towards 4000 kg per arm. They are often used as single arm cranes for smaller tenders or jet skis. Larger yachts tenders are often launched alongside with a set of two sliding davits. Slewing beam cranes are used to create a full flexible tender garage layout. As these cranes are mounted to the bulkheads of the tender garage, the deck construction can be lower compared to fixed sliding beam cranes. Tenders and toys are conveniently stored in the forward garage and launched through gull-wings doors on each side. This leaves space in the lazarette for a wide beach club and gym with a generous swim platform for owner and guests to swim and relax right at the sea’s edge. Most overhead cranes are powered in one of two ways using either a hydraulic or an electric drive.

Peter Pfabe is managing director of Fuchs Fördertechnik GmbH based in Oststeinbek, Germany a company he joined 33 years ago. Having started 60 years ago as a local supplier of hoists, the company is now represented globally with branches all over the world. He tells us, “Today we can look back having successfully delivering over 6,000 delivered cranes for the marine industry. This success only is possible, because we always meet new challenges and master them with innovative solutions. We were one of the first suppliers of electrically driven tender boat cranes and have developed DNVGL-type approved stainless steel hooks suitable for combined tender- rescue boat cranes.

Peter is proud of customer service his company provides and recalls a situation where recently, somewhere in the Caribbean between the Bahamas and Miami, a superyacht fitted with Fuchs equipment had a problem. He told us, “The owner had taken the yachts tender away on a fishing trip and while he was away, and the yacht was stationery the crew took the opportunity to work on the yachts Jet Skis open the stern doors and extending the crane to do so. When the owner returned from fishing, he instructed the crew to pack up and head for Miami. In their haste to stow everything away quickly disaster struck. The wireless remote-control panel need to operate the crane fell over the side and was lost. That was not a problem because a spare control panel that could be plugged into the unit using a cable, was stored in the engine room. Unfortunately, in their haste to retrieve, it the cable and its plug caught on a fire door and the plug was destroyed. Efforts to repair the plug on board were in vain and the vessel, with her stern door still wide open, was unable to proceed. The yacht contacted Fuchs asking for advice. Minutes later, technicians were connected to the yachts control system using a satellite connection. They rapidly developed an emergency control programme and instructed the chief engineer on how to make some changes to the electronics, making it possible, to operate the crane again without a control panel. Crane retracted, the door was safely closed, and the vessel resumed her voyage arriving in Miami before the owner became too irate!

Moveable Bathing Platforms
An alternative to lifting a tender or jet ski into or out of the water is to float it on or off a platform. Hydraulically operated moving swim platforms are frequently built with this feature incorporated into them and the system works well on sail boats and smaller motor yachts whose overall length precludes a garage. The Seascape is a hydraulic moving bathing platform made by Hydromar using a Z-shaped movement crankshaft mechanism compromising of two sets of cylinders which drive the crankshaft system. It can be produced in several sizes in which further variables are possible.

Early incarnations of devises such as these suffered failure when large waves from astern caused damage to the platform. Hydromar have allowed for this potential problem by fitting
an integrated breaking mechanism to deal with the critical loadings which are caused by waves that are too large. The mechanism can be replaced by the crew without the need of shoreside assistance and even if parts are not available on board, the seascape is able to be used with breaking mechanism un-mended making the Hydromar a reliable bathing platform that cannot be damaged beyond repair due to a too high sea state.

When in use lifting gear can be ugly to look at and can spoil the line or look of a yacht.  Over the years manufacturers have designed equipment that not only functions well but looks good and fits in with the surroundings when stowed away. Remco Zeevaarder at Cramm Yachting Systems says, “Sliding beam cranes are usually hidden above the panelling in the tender garage. Deck cranes are designed to look as nice as possible for such a functional piece of kit, with tapering jibs and faired covers, but they are also often hidden away in tender wells. Of course, all our cranes are faired and finished in superyacht quality paint.”

Philippus Feenstra, owner of Feebe Boarding Equipment understands the problem. He says, “We are very well aware that our range of products are not only essential to have, but also can be an obstacle to recreational space on board. So, we keep our lines as clean as we can, to make the product nicely blend into the yacht’s atmosphere. We make our equipment so that the outsides are nicely matching the yacht, and the machinery is all hidden on the inside. Technique and functionality is essential but for us this does not mean that the guests need to be bothered. Ideally they should not notice we are there.” Peter Pfabe the managing director of Fuchs tells us, “A clever designer once said: It charges the same – to build an ugly car or a beautiful car.” He goes onto explain, “In principle the same applies for cranes. That means, we pay attention to the appropriate appearance and shape, the use of suitable materials and the style of surfaces.”

All the lifting kit in the world will require servicing at some stage and given the critical standards lifting gear is expected to adhere too it does not make sense to cut corners when it comes to maintenance. Specialist assistance is not necessarily cheap but often essential. Documents detailing the yachts insurance clauses often spell out the perils of not having lifting gear checked by experts on a regular basis whether or not they appear to be functioning normal. Remember much of this equipment is used to lift people as well as equipment. Van Driel is just one of the companies mentioned here who have their own service engineers traveling the world offering specific repairs and service along with annual surveys to re-certify rescue and life raft cranes.

In Monaco, servicing the Mediterranean region, from Barcelona to Livorno on a regular basis. Geetech has been offering a comprehensive range of engineering services dedicated to the superyacht industry. Specifically, that range includes solutions for hydraulics, cranes, passerelles, access tracks and anything else associated with working aloft. Company Founder, Martin Gee, an English mechanical design and development engineer with over 30 years of experience, set the firm up ten years ago. His team of experienced technicians, craftsmen, ex-yacht crew and ex-yacht management professionals have a can-do attitude when it comes to problem serving no matter what the vessel or the environment throws at them. That is perhaps explains how the firm has so quickly earned the trust and respect of many professionals of the yachting industry.

Matt Buckland, the Chief Engineer, serving aboard the 46 metre Feadship Rahal says, “Geetech is one of the rare companies that, once found, you try to avoid using others as the service will just not be the same. I have used Martin for the past three years from jobs as varied as design and installation of pipe work and machinery to testing and validation of deck equipment and everything in between. I have also used the company for are emergency crane repairs and engineering at 3 in the morning with perfect results (and happy owners!). All this with a smile and determination to solve the problem and always with fair prices, even at short notice.”