Who is 65 years old, 84 meters tall, and plans to retire shortly after 35 years service to MTMC's Bremerhaven Terminal?
Old timers in Bremerhaven could answer that one in a flash -- "Long Heinrich." Long Heinrich is the unofficial title of the 260 ton floating crane (BD 6000) that has been on the U.S. Army's books in Bremerhaven since being taken from the Germans as spoils of war in 1945.
In truth, Long Heinrich has been in semiretirement, as far as Bremerhaven Terminal is concerned, since 1958 when the vessel was leased back to the German government, for the consideration of one dollar per year. Through their contractor, the Bremerhaven firm of Motorenwerke, the Bonn government used the crane to support maintenance operations for the German Navy. According to the lease agreement, Bremerhaven Terminal was entitled to free use of the crane whenever it was required to support cargo discharge or loading operations, provided the U.S. Army, paid the tug fees.
In March 1980, as he eventually does with us all, Father Time caught up with Long Heinrich. The cost of maintaining the old vessel, as well as wages for the seven-man crew required for operation began to exceed the cost of doing the same job with newer, faster, and more efficient equipment. The German government served notice on the U.S. Army that it would terminate the 22 year old lease and return the crane to its owner on August 1.
The news of Long Heinrich's imminent return presented the staff of Bremerhaven Terminal with challenge and opportunity. The challenge was to decide what to do with Long Heinrich when he came home again. The spaces formerly authorized in the terminal for the operation, care, and feeding of the vessel had long since felt the manpower survey team's ax (or the 1958 equivalent).
The opportunity was to view first hand a virtual floating museum and a classic example of how diligent, loving care can preserve a machine in near mint condition, even though it's in daily use.
In the midst of pondering the ton of message traffic and other correspondence generated by the Bonn government's decision and its subsequent developments. Bremerhaven Terminal Commander, Lt. Col. William D. O'Hara, Jr., was struck by an inspiration. "What we need here is a Boat Warrant!" The supply officer, Capt. Steven J. Brady, hastily agreed, and the necessary wheels were set in motion.
On July 23 after some high-powered staff work on the part of the MTMC Terminal Group. Europe, CW3 Armand Janelle MTMC Eastern Area, Transportation Terminal Unit, Azores, rode to the technical rescue of the terminal. Reporting directly to Long Heinrich, he went straight to work on the inventory of spare and component parts. He used a "BILI List" prepared in 1958, very likely by one of his salty antecedents, and proceeded to identify parts of engines and pieces of crane that hadn't seen daylight since most of us were in short pants. The next day the Chief pronounced the cane to be in top shape, and the way cleared for the August 1 turnover.
When the big day arrived, representatives of the German Ministry of Defense, Motorenwerke, and the MTMC Bremerhaven Terminal gathered in the officer's messroom aboard the vessel. Amid expressions of friendship and cooperation, they signed the documents. returning the crane to the U.S. Army.
As of this writing, Long Heinrich is in the hands of a caretaker, also Motorenwerke, waiting his fate by the Property Disposal Office. Being so well preserved. there's a good chance that someone will be interested in buying him and putting him back to work. If not, Long Heinrich's future could be limited to a one-way trip to the boneyard.