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World Famous Cranes Made in Alameda

The Pacific Coast Engineering Company (PACECO) designed the world’s first high-speed, dockside container-handling cranes on Blanding Avenue here in Alameda. PACECO’s C. Dean Ramsden worked with Matson Navigation Company to create these A-frame cranes, which went into service at Alameda’s Encinal Terminals on Jan. 7, 1959.

Alameda Post - PACECO crane
Pacific Coast Engineering Company designed this crane for Matson Navigation Company in 1958 at its shipyard on Blanding Avenue just west of the Park Street Bridge. The crane made history when it went into service in early 1959. Photo PACECO

PACECO’s creations reduced ship turnaround time from three weeks to eighteen hours. They moved large quantities of products with less handling, less damage, and less pilferage. Previously in Matson’s operation, one longshore gang handled approximately nine tons of cargo per hour. In comparison, PACECO’s container crane operated on a three-minute cycle with an average container weight of 20 tons. This resulted in a productivity of 400 tons per hour. Matson was so impressed with the crane at Encinal Terminals that it ordered two more in 1960, installing one in Los Angeles and the other in Honolulu.

The Port of Nanjing, China, purchased PACECO’s Encinal Terminal cranes in 1987 and redesigned them the following year to meet standards set by the Chinese Mechanical Engineering Society.

Alameda Post - C. Dean Ramadan
C. Dean Ramsden played an important role in designing the PACECO’s crane that began operating at Encinal Terminals and revolutionized the way ships were unloaded. Photo PACECO.

PACECO started as a mechanical engineering company in 1922 in Oakland. The Navy acquired PACECO’s property there in 1940 for World War II needs. PACECO opened a shipyard in Alameda at 2350 Blanding Ave., just west of the Park Street Bridge. A strip mall along the Estuary, Perforce Software, and a used-car sales lot occupy the site today. The new yard did prefabrication work for other Bay Area maritime operations like the Richmond Shipyards. In 1943, PACECO built the first of its five US Navy tugboats.

After World War II, PACECO continued to build tugboats. The company also constructed barges. It created its famous container crane at this Blanding Avenue site. PACECO was sold to Fruehauf Trailer Corporation in 1967. Fruehauf ended shipbuilding in 1976 and changed to build primarily container crane and container chassis. PACECO still has a Bay Area presence in Hayward.

Dennis Evanosky is the Editor of the Alameda Post. Reach him at [email protected].

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