A Comansa luffing tower working on the 65 storey Burj Vista in downtown Dubai

A Comansa luffing tower working on the 65 storey Burj Vista in downtown Dubai

The Middle East is still bustling with crane activity amidst falling oil prices. It includes a strengthening focus on safety, a surge in residential construction projects and greater demand for longer booms. Katherine Weir investigates

Despite a low oil price, the crane business is still strong in the Middle East, with jobs ongoing across several industries, including petrochemical, nuclear, power generation, oil and gas, residential and construction.

Nagham Al Zahlawi at Abu Dhabi-based tower crane distributor and rental giant NFT, says, “The luffing cranes are becoming more and more popular as well as the flat tops due to the constraint of having many tower cranes working simultaneously on a single job site. The region has also seen a surge of projects in transport and infrastructure: bridges, railways, metro, revamping roads.”

Zahlawi also sees an increase in the demand for tower cranes with lower heights and mobile cranes with heavier capacities due to an increase in the construction of villas and other low rise residential buildings.

Tower crane manufacturer Comansa, based in Spain, is developing a new luffing jib tower crane - the biggest yet, the company said. Martín Echevarría, sales manager at Comansa, says, “The LCL700 will be launched before the end of 2016. It will come in two versions, with a maximum load capacity of 50 or 64 tonnes, and will feature a 200 kilowatt hoist motor to work at speeds of up to 170 metres per minute. The 50 tonne version will offer an optional drum with capacity for 1,270 metres of wire rope, perfect for high rise projects.”

Echevarría explains that tall buildings and skyscrapers are the current construction trend in the Middle East, especially in Dubai. Therefore, he says, high speed hoist mechanisms and high capacity of wire rope are essential in tower cranes. “Most of our cranes in the region are working in tall buildings, like the DAMAC Towers by Paramount with 67 floors, or the Burj Vista with 65 floors, both in downtown Dubai. Out of Dubai we have other types of projects, like infrastructure, petroleum or shipyards,” says Echevarría.

International heavy lift and transport company ALE says that there is an over capacity of small to mid-size cranes in the region but that there is still a good market for larger cranes and lifting equipment in excess of 2,500 tonnes. Paul Sands, commercial director at ALE based in the Abu Dhabi office, says, “The crane developed for the Middle East and the global market is the AL.SK350, which has a nominal capacity of 5,000 tonnes. ALE has already secured work for this crane.”

Other equipment developed with the Middle East market in mind is the 80 tonne capacity QY80V, the 55 tonne QY55D and 55V and the 25 tonne QY25V truck crane from Chinese manufacturer Zoomlion.

The company will also be launching a new second generation rough terrain wheeled crane in the near future that is for the global market but, in particular, for the Middle East. Ken Zhou, product manager at Zoomlion, says, “The ZRT900 will have the strongest comprehensive hoisting performance in the industry. Its full optimal design has solved the problem of the transport overweight of the vehicle, accordant with the laws and regulations concerning roads in the Middle East. In view of the common operations in oil fields and deserts in the area, spark arrester and radial tyres are adopted, more suitable for the local environment.”

From Tadano there is the GR-500EXL rough terrain for the Middle East and emerging countries in Asia. Launched in March 2015, “This model features a 42 m boom - longest in this class - and manoeuvrability by compact carrier with simple, durable and easy operation,” a spokesperson from the Japanese manufacturer says.

The rough terrain market in the region is also an important one for Terex. It recently introduced its new RT 90 in the 80 tonne capacity class at April’s Bauma exhibition in Germany. Also new is the Demag 5 axle all terrain family in the 130, 160, 220 and 250 tonne capacity classes, which is expected to find sales in the Middle East.

Region trends

International crane manufacturer Sennebogen has the 120 tonne capacity 6113R telescopic crawler and the 300 tonne 6300HD heavy duty cycle crane for the Middle East region. Florian Attenhauser at Sennebogen speaks about the trends emerging in the region. “There is more and more demand for a robust telescopic crawler as a pick and carry crane with up to 100 percent lifting capacity in pick and carry mode. The reinforced cooling systems for HD cranes are popular and there will be more demand for special heavy duty cycle cranes as most of the fleets have to be renewed in the Middle East.”

Heavy lift and transport company Mammoet says that the Middle East remains an important market for the company, especially in the oil and gas and power segments. The company believes the region’s growth is inhibited by logistics challenges in some areas. Mike Abbas, Mammoet commercial director for the Middle East, says, “There is a need for unique ideas to insure projects are executed on-scope or ahead of schedule. There is a need fo0r companies to look beyond the traditional approaches in heavy lift in the region and propose solutions for difficult and unique problems.”

Last year, Mammoet helped Saudi Arabia-based contractor Nesma Trading move a 2,400 tonne mosque in Jeddah to make room for a new hospital. Mammoet proposed to jack up and slide the building to the new location. The company used skidding equipment including skid shoes, push and pull units, skid tracks and power packs. The mosque was skidded more than 120 m to its new location in less than 48 hours, allowing visitors to continue their prayers, the company said.

As part of the region’s growth there are new opportunities for unusual lifting jobs as Osman Logoglu, commercial manager at Enerpac Europe, Middle East, Africa and India (EMEAI) explains. “In the next 12 months, we expect to see an increase in demand from the following sectors: rail projects, infrastructure projects, power plant projects and the construction of stadiums for the 2022 World Cup in Doha, Qatar and the 2020 World Expo projects.”

Hydraulic lifting systems manufacturer Enerpac has won an order for the design and manufacture of a special gripper jack skidding system from one of the largest oil and gas construction companies in the Middle East, the National Petroleum Construction Company, to facilitate load out of extremely large and heavy structures and platforms. The skidding system will include four gripper jacks with a push and pull capacity of 3,200 tonnes. The system will be used for various load out activities, including the load out of a 28,000 tonne platform, the largest platform built to date in the Middle East, the company says.

Liebherr-Werk Nenzing says that it is one of only a few crane manufacturers with a dedicated product line for duty cycle applications. The 100 tonne capacity HS 8100 HD and the 130 tonne HS 8130 HD are popular machines for the Middle East because of their robust construction, powerful drives and optimised hydraulic systems, the company says.

Wolfgang Pfister at Liebherr-Werk Nenzing says, “Up to a few years ago, the Middle East market was dominated by “big size lift crane” orders from the large crane rental companies. The demands have been shifted much more towards machinery with high duty cycle ability, a high level of versatility and of course durability.”

The Ehingen branch of Liebherr where the wheeled mobile and large crawler cranes are built, says that its 500 tonne LTM 1500-8.1 with its 84 m telescopic boom is very successful in the Middle East. Wolfgang Beringer at the company adds, “Customers in this region demand long telescopic booms, as often place for mounting lattice jibs is restricted. This is the case especially in petrochemical plants and refineries.”

Another company who has noticed and reacted to the need for an increase in boom length in the region is USA-based Link-Belt. Pat Collins, director of product marketing at Link-Belt, says, “Boom length is a main criterion for purchasing a crane in this region of the world. Link-Belt has taken this request very seriously with the design of three new products displayed at Bauma 2016. The 100RT and HTT-86110 each have 50 m of boom, while the TCC-1400 has 59.5 m of boom, the longest in its range.”

Collins also explains how important it is for Link-Belt to exceed international safety standards with items such as cameras, winch working platforms with guard rails, flat deck design and integrated deck access ladders across its entire portfolio.

For Manitowoc, the overriding trend in the Middle East is a requirement for safety. David Semple, vice president of sales in the Middle East at Manitowoc, says, “In addition to the safety parameter, a current trend that we are seeing on the mobile crane side in this region is a requirement by end users to have longer booms. And, with worsening macro-economic conditions, users are changing their mind-set to be more akin to Europe and as such the ‘taxi crane’ concept is one that is generating a lot of interest.”

A Grove RT880E was the first crane in the Middle East to be fitted with Samson’s K-100 synthetic hoist rope – 80 % lighter than wire rope, the company said. The company also recently held a dealer conference with Orascom Trading and International Development Programmes (IDP) to show its commitment to Egypt and the Middle East.

Safety and a need for longer booms seem to be the strongest requirements of the region but as ever, everything comes down to price as Zahlawi from NFT explains. “Price sensitivity is a major characteristic of a contractors’ decision making process,” she says. “It has become a buyer’s market. NFT was one of the first suppliers in the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] for tower cranes but, during the last five years, the GCC has seen a surge of other tower crane manufacturers enter the market. The GCC countries’ skylines are coloured with a plethora of tower cranes.”

Market share

UK-based specialized engineering company Modulift says that approximately 10 % of its global business comes from the Middle East. Sarah Spivey, Modulift managing director, adds, “This is made up from distributors who hold stock and sell in to their markets, and large end users such as heavy lift companies who purchase our beams for their own inventory and lifts. We have stock holding distributors established in UAE and Saudi Arabia and we hope to finalise a third for Qatar and a fourth for Oman very soon. We are confident that by the end of 2016 we can increase this to at least 15 to 20 %.”

Liebherr confirms that approximately 10 % of its turnover comes from this region. Beringer at Liebherr-Werk Ehingen says, “We have a sales and service location in Dubai, four locations in Saudi Arabia and we are just building a Liebherr facility in Dammam, Saudi Arabia.”

Up to now, Comansa says, the Middle East has been a difficult one for it to enter, making it a small part of the company’s global business. Comansa doesn’t have facilities of its own but has representatives in UAE, Qatar and Kuwait, with the plan of having dealers in Saudi Arabia and Iran soon.

The Middle East represents 10 to 15 % of Manitowoc’s global business, 12.5 % of Tadano’s total crane sales worldwide and for Sennebogen it is between 5 and 10 % of its turnover. Outside of the Chinese market, Zoomlion says it gets 30 % of its global crane market share from the region.

Ken Zhou at Zoomlion says, “In the Middle East, many projects are postponed or delayed as the international oil price goes down dramatically. But it seems that there are limited impacts on infrastructure such as the high speed railway, airports, road and the large scale power station jobs.”

Headquarters for NFT is in Abu Dhabi. Zahlawi says, “The GCC alone contributes to 60 % of our business. We go where the demand goes but our roots are based in the UAE.”

For Tadano, the oil price situation is not seen as a need to panic. A spokesperson says, “There are some order cancellations due to the falling down of oil price and oil production, but oil production is currently increasing. We forecast that we don’t need to be pessimistic for the crane market in the Middle East since worldwide events like the World Cup and the World Expo are coming, as well as the likelihood of economic sanctions being lifted in Iran.”

This feature was taken from the July 2016 issue of International Cranes and Specialized Transport magazine

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