Monster digger

Standing taller than a two-storey building and weighing 192 tonnes, the Hitachi EX1900 is one of the largest excavators in Singapore. Janice Heng and Tien Chung Ping report.

A huge project calls for huge machinery. Towering more than two storeys high and weighing 192 tonnes, the Hitachi EX1900 excavator is said to be the biggest in Singapore.

It was brought in by East Marine to reclaim land for the relocation of Singapore's port facilities to Tuas.

The digger has been mounted on East Marine's DB-II barge, where it will dump rocks and stones onto the seabed to serve as a foundation for the reclaimed land.

Such work is often carried out by grab dredgers - stationary, crane- like machines.

A grab dredger's clamshell bucket can hold 25 cubic m, more than the 15.7 cubic m capacity of the EX1900's bucket.

But a grab dredger takes two minutes to pick up material, swivel and dump it, compared with just 45 seconds with the excavator.

Grab dredgers cost about $6 million to $8 million compared with the $2.6 million for the EX1900.

Grab dredgers, though, offer a wider range of uses, such as being able to smash rocks.

Mr Louis Chua, general manager of Hitachi Construction Machinery (Malaysia)'s Singapore operations, said most excavators in the Singapore marine industry weigh about 30 to 40 tonnes, while excavators of the EX1900's size are more commonly used in mining.

East Marine chairman Ogawa Atsushi said it was chosen after "many various options" were considered.

The company's DB-II barge itself is designed for productivity and has a precise satellite-positioning system that enables it to cut the number of workers on deck from 20 to as few as 12.

The EX1900 arrived here in September and will be formally handed over to East Marine on Monday in a traditional Shinto ceremony, reflecting its Japanese origin.

The machine will be purified with salt and blessed with sake, which will then be drunk by attendees.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2015, with the headline 'Monster digger'. Print Edition | Subscribe