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The jack-up barge creates a safe and stable platform so cranes can operate in the Ferry Basin; it spends around a week in each position before being relocated to the next piling location

Mechanical muscle for Ferry Basin redevelopment

Auckland’s Downtown Waterfront programme is now in full swing with some serious mechanical muscle doing the heavy lifting in the Ferry Basin.


Auckland Council’s Downtown programme is transforming the Auckland city waterfront into an attractive, people-friendly environment. Key projects that will be delivered and completed in time for the America’s Cup in 2021 include strengthening and enhancing Quay Street, redeveloping the Ferry Basin and developing a new Downtown public space.

Work to move the utilities and strengthen Quay Street is well underway, and contractors have commenced work to create six new berths on the west side of Queens Wharf – the first step towards a modern ferry terminal. With the programme shifting to working over the water, one of the greatest challenges for contractors has been creating a safe and stable platform so cranes can operate in the Ferry Basin. A ‘jack-up barge’ is solving this problem using smart engineering. 

Stable working platform

After divers inspect the seabed to ensure there are no obstructions, the 410 sq m barge is floated into position. Once in place, each of the four 36 m hydraulic legs are fed down through the barge into the seabed below (up to 3 or 4 m into the seafloor) and locked into position. Opposite legs of the barge are then loaded sequentially to ensure a stable platform as the hydraulic system lifts the barge out of the water.

To load the crane onto the barge, the barge is raised to wharf level and a 100 tonne crawler crane (on caterpillar tracks) is tracked on. The crawler crane can safely lift heavy loads like the pile casings which can be up to 30 m long and weigh 15 tonnes.

Once elevated, the platform’s daily safety and stability is checked using changes in hydraulic pressure gauges in the legs. The barge spends around a week in each position before being relocated to the next piling location.

Innovative technology

Programme director Eric van Essen is impressed with the innovative technology used to keep the programme moving. “Using this specialised equipment is a result of our commitment to smart thinking as we look forward to being ready for the 2021 America’s Cup,” he says.

The barge will remain alongside Queens Wharf until December, delivering the 33 canopy and pontoon piles for the six new ferry berth pontoons. It will then shift to another location in the Ferry Basin to install 43 more piles between Princes Wharf and Queens Wharf to construct the new Downtown public space.

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