Old port cranes

On the banks of the Scheldt stand 12 dockside giants pointing to the sky. This series of historic cranes presents a vivid demonstration of the rapid pace of technological development of port activities over the course of the past century.

Here outside the MAS Museum are 12 of the 18 cranes in the museum’s collection, the largest collection of historic port cranes in the world. These tall structures on the banks of the Scheldt are now a permanent feature of the city skyline, pointing towards the modern port that lies farther away. 

The old cranes in the port of Antwerp have withstood wind and weather for centuries. The first mention of a crane in the port of Antwerp is more than 750 years ago, in 1263, and the city has provided a crane service continuously ever since.  For centuries the cranes in the port were driven by human muscle power. Then from the end of the 19th century onwards there was rapid technological development, first with steam power, then hydraulic power and then electricity. The oldest crane in the collection dates from 1907, the youngest from 1963.

For the crane restoration work the MAS Museum calls upon “godparents,” while the Port Authority contributes not only sponsorship but also practical resources in the form of know-how and workshop facilities. Both MAS Museum and Port Authority work with training centres for young people who would otherwise have difficulty in finding employment, thus providing a social service.