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What Is a Derrick Crane?

M. McGee
M. McGee

A derrick crane is a specific style of lifting machine. It is usually a fixed crane, meaning it is assembled and disassembled in the location where it is used, although there are some very small mobile styles. Generally, the crane is characterized by its long, fixed length tower. These cranes are typically used in locations where items need to be moved from a common initial point to single nearby location, like on shipping platforms and construction sites.

This crane is composed of a tower that pivots at the base. The tower is generally made up of a web work of steel pipes and braces, creating a lot of strength. The tower is connected to four lines which work independently of one another, allowing the crane tower to move freely in any direction. A single fifth line hangs over the end of the tower and has a hook on the end. This line moves up and down and hooks onto items.

Derrick cranes use an adjustable cable to raise loads to desired heights.
Derrick cranes use an adjustable cable to raise loads to desired heights.

Since the hook can go up and down freely, a derrick crane is often used to raise and lower items in a high location, like on high-rise buildings. Often, during the end phase of construction, a crane is brought to the top of the building and assembled on the roof. The derrick then lowers the equipment to the ground, after which it is disassembled and brought down as well.

Derrick cranes are often used at port terminals.
Derrick cranes are often used at port terminals.

Another common location for a derrick crane is on shipping platforms. It is very common to find smaller derricks loading and unloading boats and trains in shipping yards. The crane remains in a fixed position on the platform or, occasionally, on the deck of the ship. Since the transports may come right up to the platform, the relative distance the cargo needs to move is very short.

This crane operates using very specific physics principles. It uses four lines with different origin points that come together at the end of the tower. This provides additional stability to the tower, as it is anchored in four locations, rather than just one like a normal crane. This also allows the crane free movement, as the lines can be brought in or out at different speeds, allowing the tower to move without sacrificing stability.

Discussion Comments


Some think that derrick crane booms cannot bend but they certainly can bend.


I want to get training to operate a derrick crane. I am in Abu Dhabi. Please let me know from where I can do this course. --Imran


@lighth0se33 – Yes, you have to go through crane safety training before operating a derrick crane. My boyfriend works in construction, and he had to do this before his boss would let him work with it.

Many of the things he learned sounded kind of basic. For example, you always have to make sure the crane is on a flat, level surface. You are supposed to inspect all the lines before operating it, and this means every single time. Also, you have a load chart to go by, and you cannot put more load on it than it can handle.

I'm sure there were other details, but he didn't share them with me, because I wouldn't have understood them, anyway. It does make me feel safer knowing that all those workers I see at construction sites are trained to operate the cranes, though. I used to feel really nervous when driving by, because I was afraid they might swing the crane down and hit my car, but now, I feel more secure.


It would be scary to operate something as huge as a derrick crane. Think of all the damage you could inflict if you did something wrong!

Surely, people must have do undergo some sort of safety training before being allowed to work with crane equipment. There have to be regulations for this, or people would be getting killed right and left!

Does anyone here know what safety training like this would entail? What are some of the things that you are supposed to do in order to keep from doing damage to people and property while operating a derrick crane?


An image of a derrick crane is what comes to mind whenever I think of the word “crane.” Though I have probably seen several different types of cranes in my life, this is the one that is most impressive.

One thing that struck me about derrick cranes is how very tall they are. They are like skinny monsters in the sky, moving huge things through the air.

Another thing is how much they look like the spaghetti tower I assembled in my college art class. All of the interlocking pieces in the middle made my tower sturdy, just like a derrick crane.

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    • Derrick cranes use an adjustable cable to raise loads to desired heights.
      By: zharate
      Derrick cranes use an adjustable cable to raise loads to desired heights.
    • Derrick cranes are often used at port terminals.
      By: vetkit
      Derrick cranes are often used at port terminals.