Experiences in the wider crane industry are shared by manufacturers of dockside cranes, including demand for more economical and more environmentally sound machines.
The worldwide economic slump saw the market for mobile harbour cranes drop 40% over the last 12 months, according to Wolfgang Pfister at Liebherr-Werk Nenzing in Austria. Despite this, Pfister says the company sold 74 units during the period, amounting to a 27% decrease in sales and defying the market trend. As a result, Liebherr claims to have increased its overall market share to 60%.
"Outlook and expectations are still difficult as market development has not improved since 2009, resulting in an even more competitive environment - especially price-wise. We are, therefore, expecting that the total market output will be not higher than the output of 2009," adds Pfister.
Demag Cranes AG is positive about the future of its Port Technology segment. "The second quarter of 2009/2010 [financial results] brought the first signs of stabilisation in contract awards," says a company spokesman. Order intake, at €44.3 million (US$ 54.2 million), was above figures for the second quarter of the previous year, €34.1 million ($41.7 million) and that for the first quarter of 2009/2010, at €30.4 million ($37.2 million).
The company adds a note of caution, however. "Although demand for mobile harbour cranes, in particular, picked up in the period under review, we still deem the entire market to be volatile," says the spokesman. "Some terminal operators consider that cargo volumes have reached the end of their decline and that it is bottoming out. It remains to be seen how enduring the upward trend will prove to be. For now, with terminals currently still under-utilised, idle handling capacity will be brought back into operation before there is any investment spending on expansion."
There are a number of industry trends accompanying the economic situation. Sustainable technologies is one of them. "Liebherr is constantly optimising production and products to help reduce CO² emissions and pollutants," says Pfister. An example is Liebherr's Pactronic hybrid drive, which has an energy storage device.
An hydraulic accumulator supplements the hydraulic fluid pump in delivering power to the system. It serves as a pressure storage reservoir incorporating gas in conjunction with hydraulic fluid. Energy is stored in this compressed gas to be released upon demand.
Hoisting and lowering speeds are increased substantially, says the company, without the need for a bigger diesel engine. Fuel consumption is also reduced by utilising the reverse energy and surplus power within the system.
In addition, the company launched the LHM 550 mobile harbour crane at June's Terminal Operations Conference and Exhibition (TOC Europe) in Valencia. The machine is bigger and faster than its predecessor, the LHM 500, says Pfister, and is equipped with the Pactronic drive system. It is available in different variants depending on the application. For container handling it is configured with a 54 m boom and tower extension for a higher pivot point. For dedicated bulk handling the LHM 550 has a 48 m boom.
The demand for more environmentally friendly machines with higher performances is also experienced by other manufacturers. For example, Cargotec recently received an order for four Kalmar ESC350W straddle carriers from Ports America for the Port Newark Container Terminal (PNCT).
The new Kalmar 7th generation ESC W, all-electric 3-high Edrive units have a 50 tonne lifting capacity and will reduce the port's environmental impact and increase productivity, says the company. The machines have electronically controlled engines, which lower exhaust emissions and reduce fuel consumption.
The Edrive also has a winch hoist system with full AC drives, enabling regenerative power distribution between hoist and drive functions. "Not only is the impact on the environment lessened, but the winch system operates more quietly," says a company spokesman.
In addition, the units for PNCT will be fitted with variable speed generator (VSG) systems for further fuel savings and reduced emissions. VSG systems optimise engine use by determining whether the cranes need increased power for heavy lifts or little power when idling.
Manufacturers will continue to introduce advanced technologies into their machines, but are also looking to expand into less well-trodden parts of the world. Some of the areas experiencing growth are in well-known emerging markets, for example, Brazil.
Gottwald Port Technology recently sold two 4-rope grab mobile harbour cranes in the country. They went to Loxus Granéis at the Port of Imbituba, and to Vanzin Serviços Aduaneiros at the Port of Rio Grande - the latter being a new customer.
The Generation 4 machines will be used for handling bulk materials. One of them, the HMK 260 EG at the Port of Imbituba, is scheduled to begin operation in July 2010 and will be used for handling petroleum coke.
Loxus Granéis was one of the first terminals in Latin America using Gottwald's 4-rope grab cranes. "Our business in Latin America has been developing very satisfactorily in recent years and the two new orders are a sign that Gottwald is successfully pursuing its strategy to conquer the bulk handling market in this region as well," said Rainer Buessing, Gottwald regional product manager.
Konecranes has targeted Turkey as a prospective market. In March 2010, Konecranes received an order for six RTG container handling cranes from Turkish terminal operator TCE EGE Konteyner Terminal Isletmeleri, based in Aliaga, Izmir. It represents the company's first sales of RTGs in the country.
"We are very pleased about this order to TCE EGE," says Kim Salvén, sales manager at Konecranes. "We started the sales work in Turkey two years ago and this has now paid off. Turkey will be one of our focus areas in the future."
The 16-wheel RTG cranes have active load control with a horizontal fine positioning system and Konecranes' crane management system, designed for safe and uninterrupted use, says the company. The cranes lift 40 tonnes and can stack one over six containers high and six plus truck lanes wide.