Council to consider crane removal

Council to consider crane removal

Dave Boitano
Todd Shipyards crane

A crane near the Main Street ferry terminal dating back to World War II is awaiting demolition. Photo by Dave Boitano.

A symbol of the Island’s shipbuilding past is set to be demolished.

An 86-foot-tall shipyard crane built during World War II and located next to the Main Street ferry terminal awaits the wrecking ball. Tonight, the City Council will consider a contract to remove it.

The structure is part of the Todd Shipyard historic district, but the cost of restoring it would be prohibitive, according to a 2012 environmental impact report. A structural engineer hired by the city estimated that it would cost $1 million to securely anchor the crane to the wharf it sits on and make other structural repairs.

Restoring the crane car and boom would take another $200,000, and maintaining the crane would require an outlay of $12,000 to $17,000 a year. Even after all the work, though, the crane would still not be operational and of no economic value, according to the impact report.

Built between 1941 and 1943, the crane was an integral part of the United Engineering Company Shipyard, which built 20 Navy tugboats during the war and repaired hundreds of other ships.

United Engineering was a major employer, with 2,000 workers. Elsewhere on the Island, the Bethlehem shipyard produced troop ships to transport large numbers of servicemen into combat areas.

The Island’s population increased as housing was developed for wartime workers and the shipyards contributed to the city’s economy, said George Gunn, curator of the Alameda Museum.

The city has always been a place linked to ships and those who sailed in them, Gunn said.

“We have a link to the seas because we have a lot of retired and practicing sea captains in the city,” he said.

After the war, the crane and surrounding property were bought by Todd Shipyards, which took on large ship repair jobs like fixing the Swedish tanker Atlantic Queen, along with converting refrigeration ships and tankers.

As demand for local shipbuilding waned Todd reduced operations, until the property was leased to private developers. The area still contains a company that restores and repairs private yachts, Bay Ship and Yacht.

Along with the trussed tower, the crane also includes a derelict windowed control car and a boom.

Officials with the Water Emergency Transportation Authority were concerned that the crane could pose a hazard to ferry riders during an earthquake or other natural catastrophe.

The ferry system carries passengers to San Francisco and would be used as an emergency lifeline in the event that a disaster shuts down the Posey Tube or the bridges that link Alameda to the mainland.

The city agreed to remove it in 2010, when it handed over its ferry service to the Water Emergency Transportation Authority, a public agency that operates ferry service all over the Bay Area.

In 2013, the city unsuccessfully solicited proposals to relocate, preserve or reuse the crane. A photographic archive booklet has been assembled and distributed to several depositories.

The demolition will be carried out by Power Engineering at a cost of no more than $290,000 if the contract is okayed by the council on Tuesday.


Al Wright's picture
Submitted by Al Wright on Tue, Feb 17, 2015

I believe George's last name is Gunn.

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Tue, Feb 17, 2015

Thanks for the catch, Al, and my apologies for the editing fail.

Submitted by John Galloway (not verified) on Mon, Feb 23, 2015

A large crane barge was tied up behind the floating dry dock next to the to-be-removed crane this evening (2/23/15). So this may have already begun.