The World’s Biggest, Most Powerful Cranes

What’s the biggest and most powerful crane in the world? We wanted to find out, but it turns out it depends on many factors. Here’s what we learned.

The modern crane is the ancestor of an invention credited to the ancient Greeks who introduced these lifting machines in order to move large stones when constructing their immense temples. Soon after, subsequent empires in Egypt and Rome were also counting on this mighty tool. Throughout the history of construction, cranes have grown in size and power to match the jobs people needed them for.

Height or Might?

We could measure cranes solely on height. To the untrained eye height is the first big impression — sky-high tower cranes are enough to leave the average person in awe.

But height is only part of the crane’s story. To many crane operators, raw power is what makes the crane a true champion.

The Strongest Cranes in the World

If we want to judge cranes by power, we should look at how much weight they can lift. But even then, it’s not a simple contest. Different cranes do different jobs, from tower cranes to mobile cranes to crawler cranes, not to mention dockside gantry cranes that can lift entire ships. To find the cranes that really stand out, we should also consider the nature of the work the crane is built to do.

Let’s take a look at 4 contenders for most powerful crane in various categories.

Four of the Baddest of Them All

Liebherr Mobile Crane
Category: Mobile
Lifting Capacity: 1,200 metric tons

crane_liebherr_715
Photo via liebherr.us

The Liebherr LTM 11200-9.1, built by the German company Liebherr Group, is the most powerful mobile crane ever built. It also has the longest telescopic boom in the world, which extends fully to 100 meters. It’s set on a double cab truck and can lift 1200 metric tons – that’s nearly 700 automobiles. That’s real pound-for-pound power for its category, but ultimately not the strongest crane in the world when compared to stationary cranes.

SSCV Thiaf
Category: Crane vessel
Lifting Capacity: 14,200 metric tonnes

crane_thialf_715
Photo via BoH, Wikimedia Commons

The biggest crane vessel in existence is the Thialf. A crane vessel is just as its moniker implies: a crane so large that it is actually a shipping vessel, in some instances housing hundreds of workers. The Thialf has two cranes with a maximum – but yet to be attempted – lifting capacity of 14,200 metric tons. This beast lives in fjords and helped to install the pylon on the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Taisun Gantry Crane
Category: Gantry
Lifting capacity: 20,000 metric tons

crane_taisun_715
Photo via Haakman, Wikimedia Commons

What would a Heavyweight tournament be without a Taisun? No, not Mike Tyson, this Taisun is the world’s biggest gantry crane. Housed in Shandong Province in China, it can lift 20,000 metric tons without so much as blinking. It even has the official lifting record registered in the Guinness Book of World Records. Respect comes from all around the world for this mega-crane.

Kockums “Tears of Malmö” Crane
Category: Gantry
Lifting Capacity: ???

crane_kockums_715
Photo via Klaus with K, Wikimedia Commons

The enormous Kockums Crane in Malmö, Sweden was legendary for its size and strength—a tourist attraction that drew curiosity-seekers from near and far. How much could it lift? Officially, a few thousand metric tons, but unofficially it may have been able to lift much more. The crane was moved to Korea in 2002, where it’s now one of several “goliath” cranes at a Hyundai Heavy Industries shipyard in Ulsan. The crane earned the nickname “Tears of Malmö,” since as the story goes residents of the Swedish shipping town wept when their beloved crane was dismantled. The Kockums Crane may not have the world lifting record, but how can we not take note of a crane that can make a nation cry?

So the next time you pass by a crane on a construction site, keep in mind that power can come in many forms and the baddest of them all is a hard thing to define in the world of crane construction.

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