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  • Writer's pictureCharlotte

Floating Crane Barges – A Guide

Do you need a floating crane barge vessel, but don’t know where to start? As the largest supplier of floating cranes and owner of the largest fleet of narrow beam crane barges, The Rothen Group can help.

We have put together a list of common questions about floating barge cranes, so you can know the difference between your crane vessels, grab cranes and propelled barges. Read on, and find out more about marine construction.

What is a floating crane barge?

For certain water-side construction projects, it might not be possible to get a normal, land-based crane installation to site. Where this is not possible, mobile cranes on barges let you carry out your tasks on water, so you can save site space.

These solutions come in different sizes depending on the application and your barge crane lifting capacity requirements. So whether you need a small crane barge or a heavy lift crane barge, there are a number of options for your specific application.

Why would I need a floating crane barge?

A crane barge vessel can be used for a number of tasks, as listed below.

Constructing piling – piling is used to stabilise canal and river banks. It involves driving sheets of material with interlocking edges, otherwise known as piles, into the earth between the waterway and its bank, enabling better bank retention. Depending on site constraints, it may be more practical to use a floating crane barge to carry out this activity.

Installing nicospan – nicospan is an environmentally sensitive bank protection material. It is suited for smaller watercourses or sites with less use and wear. It may be difficult to carry out land works on these sites, meaning small crane barges with mounted cranes offer a potential solution.

Carrying and lifting materials to sites – where no other access is possible, a heavy lift crane barge could transport large quantities of material to construction sites.

Carrying plant to sites – transporting diggers, dumpers and chippers to river or canal-side sites can be tricky. Depending on barge crane lifting capacity, a floating crane barge can make transporting plant easier.

Carrying out towpath works – creating new towpaths or resurfacing existing towpaths with resin, towpaths with resin, tarmac or gravel may require a floating barge crane solution.

Lifting bridges into place – where there is no land access, a heavy lift crane barge, or mobile cranes on barges, can be used to help construct waterway bridges.

Carrying out dredging – barge mounted cranes can be used to dredge inland waterways. After the river or canal bed is dredged, mobile cranes on barges can be used to transport materials to deposit sites. This material can then be re-used as topsoil or compost.

Undertaking marina repairs/maintenance – a crane barge vessel can dredge a marina, and crane vessels with a higher barge crane lifting capacity can help install or refurbish pontoons and jetties.

Installing pipework and cables along towpaths – floating crane barge vessels can be used to transport materials required for towpath cabling and piping, and to dig trenches to help with installation.

Aiding demolition works – floating barge cranes and mobile cranes on barges can help carry materials away from sites where demolition works are taking place.

Changing lock gates – canal lock gates raise and lower ships and barges, allowing them to navigate different levels of river and canal. The average lock gate lasts for 25 years before they need to be replaced. If they are located at sites that may be difficult to navigate, mobile cranes on barges and heavy lifting crane barges may be needed.

Who operates floating crane barges?

We offer cranes barges that are powered with an engine, and others that are unpowered. Therefore, you may need a crane operator in some instances. Any crane operator must have Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) or National Plant Operators Registration Scheme (NPORS) certification.

For sites requiring a powered crane barge, the operator must also have a RYA Helmsman Certificate of Competence. This industry-recognised qualification is well-known, highly-respected and proves the operator’s experience and competence as a boat skipper. They will also be Hiab trained, meaning they can use lorry-mounted cranes to transfer vessels from the vehicle to the water.

For smaller lifts, the operator will sit in the machine, aboard the crane vessel. However, if a heavy lift crane barge is required, remote controls can be used to operate the crane. This means the operator can be clear of the vessel during the lift.

What are the important parts of a floating crane barge?

When considering a floating crane barge, it is important look at a number of factors. This includes the stability of the boat, which is created using stabiliser legs and large feet pads. Depending on the depth of the waterway, your crane barge vessel may need to be fitted with longer stabiliser legs to ensure a stable working platform.

Boat dimensions are also important when considering hiring a floating crane barge. The beam, or width, of a crane barge vessel will determine whether it can work on narrow or wide waterways. The draft of the boat – the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull – also needs addressing, as it determines the minimum depth the crane barge vessel can work in and safely navigate. As such, a boat with a larger draft may not be suitable for work in shallow water.

The barge crane, and the barge crane lifting capacity, should also be kept in mind. Depending upon the size of waterway and weight of lift, The Rothen Group offers four types of crane barge. All these barges have been fitted with the latest Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) technology (including drop control valves), are marine-approved, and run on bio-oil.

The Rothen Group’s barge crane options include:

40ft Crane Boatable to be moved by hiab lorry to keep mobilisation costs down, this small crane barge is self-propelled and highly manoeuvrable. Its twin vertical stablisers at the front and two rear frog feet stabliser legs keep the boat stable while the front-mounted Atlas crane is in operation. The crane has seat-mounted controls to optimise visibility and usability.

50ft Crane Boat ideal for piling, dredging bank stablisation works and transporting up to five tonnes of materials to awkward access sites, the 50ft crane barge vessel has a 1.5 tonne lifting capacity, with hydraulic stabiliser legs that go down to a depth of two metres.

70ft Grab Barge this 70ft propelled barge is fitted with a Fassi F40 hiab with a range of 6.3m. It is self-loading and self-discharging, with two removable watertight skips to store dredgings or concrete. Its 20-tonne carrying capacity makes the 70ft floating crane barge ideal for carrying out spot dredging and piling. This vessel can also be used as a pusher tug or hopper.

70ft Crane Boatpurpose-built for lifting and replacing narrow beam lock gates, this heavy lift crane barge features a remote-controlled Atlas crane with a maximum lift of 3.5 tonnes at 4.5 metres. Its large hold space can house 20 tonnes of materials, including lock gates, enabling materials to be easily removed and delivered from sites with poor access.

Wide Beam Crane Barge our new wide beam crane barge has a carrying capacity of 25 tonnes, and a 7m internal load space with sealed internal tank, allowing it to carry solid and liquid materials. Its front-mounted crane allows for a 360-degree working space, and has a capacity for 3.5 tonnes at a 4.5m reach, and 870kg at 14m reach.

Narrow beam Crane Pontoon with a one-tonne barge crane lifting capacity and a reach of 6.3m, the pontoon’s four stabiliser legs create a very stable platform which go to a depth of 1.7m with a 1m extension available. When transporting a machine, the side stability tanks can be swung around to the rear of the crane vessel to enable it to pass through locks or narrow bridges.

Wide Beam Crane Pontoon a specialist, purpose-built vessel with a six-tonne maximum lift, it has a maximum outward reach of 8m and an upward reach of 10m. It is ideal for lock gate changing operations where the pontoon can transport and lift in the new gates all in one operation, and then load the old gates and transport off site.

What attachments can be fitted onto a floating crane barge, and why would you fit these attachments?

Different attachments can be fitted depending what application the barge mounted crane is being used for. The Rothen Group have a range of attachments adapted to suit your requirements, including:

Vibro piling hammers compact, robust, reliable and able to be quickly attached to mobile cranes on barges, these vibratory hammers work in place of an excavator bucket. They are available in multiple sizes depending on crane size, and drive and extract piles in a productive and cost-effective fashion.

Air hammersair hammers are ideal for trench sheeting, as well as driving light pile sections, H-section columns, carrier posts, steel tubes, plastic and timber piling, and mooring or jetty scaffolding.

Hydraulic piling hammersused in hard ground conditions, free-hanging hydraulic impact piling hammers are easy to operate and maintain at low cost. The Rothen Group offer hydraulic piling hammers in three sizes floating cranes sized 2.5 tonnes and over.

Hydraulic post hammersespecially suited to driving posts for the installation of nicospan and ocir rolls, The Rothen Group offer a range of hydraulic post drivers to suit barge mounted cranes from 1.5 to 5 tonnes.

Clamshell buckets – clamshell buckets are mounted on floating barge cranes of varying sizes and can be used for dredging or clearing debris from water.

Chain slings – heavy duty chain slings can be attached to heavy lift crane barges to enable equipment to be lifted onto the barge or water-side construction site.

If you have any further questions about crane barge vessels or would like to know more about the services The Rothen Group can offer, please contact us on 01827 215715, or email

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