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We are building St. Petersburg. Docker-machine operator. Port Bronka


The Multipurpose Sea Cargo Complex “Bronka”. Ships from all over the world come here – from South-East Asia, South America, Europe. Kirill Galytsyn is one of the first to greet them. A crane operator in the docks is the main link in the transportation chain, thanks to which a buyer gets the goods arriving to St. Petersburg by sea.


I think its always cool when you can do something that others cant. When you say you are a crane operator, people imagine a huge tall crane, which builds houses. Then you start explaining about your work at the docks and not all get it. 

Petya, listen..Hello, hello! Listen, switch over to channel 3. And say something

Checking connection

All good, lets work with this then. Yup, channel three it is

The Multipurpose Sea Cargo Complex “Bronka”. Ships from all over the world come here – from South-East Asia, South America, Europe. Kirill Galytsyn is one of the first to greet them. A crane operator in the docks is the main link in the transportation chain, thanks to which a buyer gets the goods arriving to St. Petersburg by sea. 

Kirill, lets go!

Kirill Golytsyn, docker-machine operator at MSCC “Bronka”: “A crane operator works under banksman’s command. Without an order you cannot do anything. But, again, it doesn’t take any responsibility off you. The crane operator is always to blame, by default. Because he’s responsible for everything happening on the way. The algorithm of actions is easy to remember, but its not easy to actually operate the crane. Meaning preventing a tilt and bringing the cargo to the needed spot. You need to know technical specifications of a crane and technological processes which happen. 

Alexey Shukletsov, CEO “Fenix”/ MSCC “Bronka”: “Without any doubt, a crane operator belongs to the “dock elites”, if we can say so. These people are special – both in character and in the knowledge they possess. He sits there – at the height of 40 meters – and has to use “the spreader”, the grabbing tool, to pick up a container and don’t miss it. That takes some eye – he has to literally feel it! The spreader can tilt because of the wind. There are people born to be pilots, there are people born to be crane operators. I can assure you – by far not anyone can handle this kind of work”

Kirill Golytsyn, docker-machine operator at MSCC “Bronka”: “I dreamt of becoming a sailor, but it didn’t really work out. But im still working in the docks. Some relatives even tell me – look, you’re not too far from your naval dream, since your profession is related to the sea in some way”

I like when it smells like sea, fresh air. My work is entirely about being in fresh air, so its great of course. 

Kirill Golytsyn, docker-machine operator at MSCC “Bronka”: “My grandfather and father have naval education. The other grandpa went to war as part of navy, defended Leningrad – and I myself served in the naval forces, proud of it. If it wasn’t for the job in the docks, I would have probably returned to the navy. 

A twenty-feet container is used as a unit to measure a crane operator’s work – the so-called theus. In 2016, the cargo turnover at “Bronka” will reach 500 thousand units – plus 130 thousand units of rolling equipment, or the so-called “ro-ro cargo”. It is approximately one fifth of the entire turnover at St. Petersburg’s port. In a year, “Bronka’s” turnover will increase two-fold. The maximum projected turnover at this complex is 1.9 million units. 

Alexey Lvov, deputy chairman of St. Petersburg’s transport committee: “The overall turnover at St. Petersburg’s port is currently around 2 million containers. Meaning that once at full capacity, “Bronka” will process – or have the capabilities to process – as much as the entire port is processing now. 

The work starts before you go up on the crane, we start it as we approach the machine. How would you drive through if the rails have been disassembled? 

Before going up on the crane, the operator must check the crane’s body, the power cables, rails and switch off storm brakes. These work as a handbrake during a parking. Such a huge machine can be moved by a strong gust of wind, that’s why safety regulations say a crane must be fixed on the rails after every shift. 

To power up a crane – it is switched on down there – we insert a key, turn the ignition and power it up. Now its ready for work. Using this console, we can move it left or right.

Kirill Golytsyn, docker-machine operator at MSCC “Bronka”: “In principle, a machine operator in the docks is a universal soldier – can operate any type of machinery in the port. If you have a desire and according license, you can hop on any piece of machinery here”

Port crane STS – which in English stands for “Ship To Shore”. Such machine can lift up to 65 tons per one go. Thanks to an extended console, the crane can unload ships with up to 18 rows of containers. It is also equipped with a “twin-lift” system, which allows picking up two containers at once. Thus, one can unload an entire ship with less stress for the operator. Such equipment is used in Russia for the first time. 

Alexey Shukletsov, CEO “Fenix”/ MSCC “Bronka”: “Ship sizes are constantly growing – and ship owners demand quicker unloading from the terminal. The thing is that today you simply cannot unload a vessel with a rope and a stick – its just way too slow, a ship would stay in the docks forever. In order to get containers out quicker, you would need modern-day unloading machinery. That’s why the man controlling this crane is, to my mind, a very important person at the docks. 

“Bronka’s” crane operators’ biggest pride is LHM-800. The hardest to operate, yet the unique crane. First and foremost, the LHM deals with offloading rolling machinery and non-standard cargo, but can also operate with containers. This mobile crane can be transported to any part of the port at the speed of 5 km/h. The machine weighs 800 tons and can lift more than a  third of its own weight. In order to operate it, one has to have the highest classification and a unique set of skills. Kirill Galytsyn is one of only three operators at “Bronka” who has the clearance to operate it. 

Kirill Golytsyn, docker-machine operator at MSCC “Bronka”: “I m such a man that I have a sportsmanlike feature. I always tend to complete a job faster than others. All reasonable, of course, But I do get some kind of kicks from it”

Kirill Golytsyn, docker-machine operator at MSCC “Bronka”: “Well, this is a manly hobby of sorts. I think any man should be able to do that. And it helps to relieve stress. If you worked well, you need to rest well too”.

The history of St. Petersburg’s port dates back to the city’s foundation. Its first buildings were constructed on the Zayachiy Island. By 19th century, the port already stretched from the mouth of the Okhta river to Gutuevskiy Island. It worked even during the Great Patriotic War – took military cargo and evacuees from the Baltics. Today, the port of St. Petersburg has more than 200 wharfs, stretching over 31 kilometers. Including the “Bronka” complex’s wharf, which began full operations in December 2015

Alexey Shukletsov, CEO “Fenix”/ MSCC “Bronka”: “We have a short entrance canal for ships. It saves time on ships’ docking. Its 13 miles from the entrance buoy to our port, 28 to the central port. It means, ships will save 3-4 hours upon approach. It’s quite a lot these days”

The Bronka terminal was initially built for large cargo ships. Today, the largest ship it is equipped to accommodate is 8100 units. But its blueprint also allows making the bottom at 16 meters – which will allow accommodating the largest ships that the Baltic can take. Up to 20000 units.

Alexey Shukletsov, CEO “Fenix”/ MSCC “Bronka”: “Yes, “Bronka” is the deepest terminal in St. Petersburg. The central part has a depth of 10.8. We have 14.4”

This is the engine room. Elevation mechanisms, which are lifting the crane, are located here. And these are the elevation mechanism which are lifting up the cargo itself. We have to inspect everything here, to see that all is ok and ropes are in the right place. 

To make a crane operational, we need to lower the console. That’s what we’ll do now. 

Going up to the cabin. We need to launch the console. 

The crane’s hand lowers within 5 minutes. This procedure is done every time before the work begins. After all mechanisms are working, the operator must prepare paperwork for the colleagues. 

From the cabin of the port crane, the operator can observe everything around – on the ground, in the air and in the water. A lot of sensors are also transmitting the necessary information onto the screen – what’s the pressure on locks, the height of the lift and the overall cargo weight. 

We have a helping printout here. It shows us that storm breaks are up and we can move on. But we can still be, I would say, more creative about the process – every cargo lift can be made slightly differently. In some cases you make a boost, in others you make it much smoother. 

A crane operator spends 11 hours straight in such pose, unloading or loading a ship. And despite a lot of electronics, a comfy seat and an AC – it would be an overstatement to call this job comfortable. However, nobody has solved this problem yet in the entire world. 

It’s hard to get used to this. The Finnish cranes even have a pull-up bar, so you can hang on it for a little. The spine gets a lot of pressure during this routine, so you get very tired physically. 

I won’t be able to lift 200 kilograms, but I will spare no effort – definitely wont – to drop 200 kilograms. 

Kirill Golytsyn, docker-machine operator at MSCC “Bronka”: “I’ve always liked weresting – I thought it could somehow help in one’s life. Again, every man must be able to stand for oneself and one’s family”

Ships from all over the world come to the port of St. Petersburg. Good and industrial raw materials, electronic equipment and factory items – all go through the Northern Capital’s naval portal. All of us are part of the naval city. What it would be like tomorrow – its up to us to decide. We are building are city together, every single one of us is building St. Petersburg. 

Kirill Golytsyn, docker-machine operator at MSCC “Bronka”: “Everything goes through us. If we don’t unload cargo from a ship, how would goods get to the consumer? Of course, the port and its workers play a direct role here”