Part of Historic Environment Scotland

Nagasaki, Japan

The final Scottish Ten project saw the team scale new heights in Japan to scan the Giant Cantilever Crane. Four industrial heritage sites in Nagasaki were recorded in total, each of which directly links Scotland with the Japanese industrial revolution.


The Giant Cantilever Crane at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries shipyard in the Port of Nagasaki is a major landmark in a city with strong historical links to Scotland. The Glasgow Electric Crane and Hoist Company designed the crane, which was manufactured and then erected on site in 1909 by the Motherwell Bridge Company. It has now been in constant use for more than 100 years.

Giant cantilever cranes are designed to carry the heaviest loads gently and with immense accuracy. Once a symbol of a thriving shipyard, they carry parts from the quayside to ships being built, refitted or repaired.

Selection for the Scottish Ten

Nagasaki’s Giant Cantilever Crane is a symbol of Scottish engineering prowess and of the direct links between Scotland and Japan’s industrial revolution. Only 11 such cranes survive worldwide – and just three are still at work.

Kosuge Slip Dock and Hashima Island Coal Mine were also in the original scanning remit. Kosuge Slip Dock is no longer in operation but its machinery, sourced in Aberdeen by Thomas Blake Glover in 1868, remains intact. Hashima, or Battleship Island, was until 1974 a thriving offshore coal-mining island built with the help of Scottish mining technologies.

Mitsubishi No. 3 Dry Dock was later added to the list of sites to be scanned.

All four sites were included in the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution World Heritage nomination in 2014. The Scottish Ten team hoped that digitally documenting the sites would add weight to the case for designation. UNESCO inscribed the World Heritage Site in 2015.

Project challenges

Digitally documenting the Giant Cantilever Crane was a real feat. Its complex web of steelwork meant the team had to laser scan from 200 positions to avoid shadows and voids in the 3D point cloud. The team also had to work around Mitsubishi’s operations as the crane is used daily by its owners.

Using high-level harness gear, the team took to the crane's cantilever arms, live ring and jib area to complete the laser scanning. Keisoku Research Consultant Company used a drone to capture images for photogrammetry.

High tide was the main challenge at Kosuge Slip Dock, while safety was the top priority on Hashima, where the buildings are in a state of managed decay. Processing data from the island was also a huge task, as a vast amount was captured via laser scanning, gigapixel photography, time-lapse photography and 3D video recording.

Data uses

3D data for each site:

  • gives accurate as-built survey information, which plays a part in the World Heritage Site management plan
  • can be used to develop virtual tours of these industrial heritage places, some of which are inaccessible
  • is the benchmark for ongoing conservation monitoring to help ensure the sites’ survival and longevity

Project partners

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