Members of the New Zealand Heavy Haulage Association with International Business Forum participants

Members of the New Zealand Heavy Haulage Association with International Business Forum participants at The Waiheke Island Resort, New Zealand

As part of SC&RA's mission of generating new members and a co-operative spirit among American members and their international counterparts, the association completed a successful International Business Forum, 3 to 13 November, in Australia and New Zealand.

Twenty-five SC&RA members from the US, China, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates travelled to the forum, which featured business meetings, receptions and dinners co-sponsored by the Crane Industry Council of Australia (CICA), the New South Wales (NSW) Crane Industry Association and the New Zealand Heavy Haulage Association (NZHHA).

Following a five-hour opening discussion and lunch session with representatives of Australia's crane industry on 4 November, fruitful conversation continued that evening during a Sydney Harbour dinner cruise. The next afternoon SC&RA participated in the monthly meeting of the NSW Crane Industry Association, a regional component of CICA.

CICA CEO Alan Marshall presented overviews of the 30-year-old CICA and CraneSafe, the organization he administers that has conducted more than 4,000 voluntary crane assessments throughout Australia since 2002. SC&RA gained an appreciation of the NSW Crane Industry Association through reports of various committees, including Membership, Social, Occupational Health & Safety, and Technical.

Marshall later noted that the visit of the SC&RA group and associated activities were a highlight of 2008 for the Australian industry.

"What a great opportunity it was to discuss, share and learn more about international crane industry issues," he said. "Members I have spoken to have been so enthusiastic about the benefits of hosting and meeting with the SC&RA group."

Although many CICA members had benefited over the years through participation in major international events, for example, the Bauma and ConExpo equipment exhibitions, the more intimate International Business Forum offered special advantages, according to Marshall.

"The SC&RA visit was right here on our own home soil, which gave those involved lots of business and social opportunities," he said. "This continues the great relationship developed by CICA and SC&RA over recent years."

Also during the NSW Crane Industry Association meeting, guest speaker Scott Story, Manitowoc Crane Care Australia manager, covered his company's recent development in Australia and elsewhere in the world, including new Potain tower cranes and the commissioning of a Manitowoc 18000 crawler in Central Queensland and the opening of new Australian factories in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Sunshine West. That evening, his company hosted a reception and dinner for the International Business Forum.

On 6 November the SC&RA group and representatives from Australian crane and rigging companies flew to Brisbane, where Terex Franna provided a tour of its manufacturing plant and a lunch. Terex Franna is the largest mobile crane manufacturer and supplier in the South Pacific Rim, specializing in pick and carry, all terrain, rough terrain and crawler cranes.

In the afternoon, Albert Smith of Universal Cranes, Queensland, led the group on a tour of Brisbane's US$1.88 billion project to upgrade the Gateway Bridge and 20 kilometres of the Gateway Motorway.

"At a time when most of the news had turned to growing global economic challenges, the day trip to Brisbane provided comforting evidence that crane manufacturing continues to thrive and major projects remain in the works," said Joel Dandrea, SC&RA executive vice president. "We also confirmed during our meetings that the Australians share a number of our major concerns, including shortages of qualified labour and crane operator safety."

The New Zealand leg of the forum officially began on 10 November with an all-day meeting with representatives of the New Zealand Heavy Haulage Association in Auckland. It quickly became clear that heavy haulers in the US and New Zealand have similar experiences concerning, for example, out-of-service orders and fines. Unlike in the US, however, railways are a non-issue for oversize transport because the number of tunnels and rail gauges make such transport impossible.

As in both the US and Australia, the hottest markets in New Zealand for the specialized carrier and rigging industry involve energy production. Development of wind farms is in its early stages and tidal generation is being investigated.

"Health and safety regulations are the biggest headache in New Zealand for the crane and rigging sector," recalled Dandrea. "There is no crane operator licensing in New Zealand, but there is movement in that direction."

A visit to the yard of Craig Walker Building Removals, Ltd., Kumeu, Auckland, New Zealand, spurred an exchange of ideas ranging from basic to complex lifting and transport challenges. With more than 30 years of experience, the company has emerged as a leader in the house relocation industry.

"It was a great honour to be able to host the members of SC&RA on Waiheke Island, just 30 minutes from Auckland," said Jonathan Thomson, CEO of the New Zealand Heavy Haulage Association.

"What their visit showed is that we are one part of the same industry, fighting against excessive regulation, while still maintaining good safety practices."

Thomson added that the visit helped spread the word to the members of his association about the work of SC&RA. "We certainly admire the range of different safety products and information that is available to members through their association," he said.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of the forum was "the opportunity for members of the respective organizations to network, make contacts and establish friendships with company owners involved in similar businesses across the globe," Thomson pointed out. "This ability to share information, ideas and innovations can only be good for the heavy transport and crane industries worldwide."

"I think the International Business Forum went extremely well," said Randy Goddard, SC&RA president. "Our host associations were very hospitable and generous. The events were well planned and a lot of business was accomplished."

Goddard said he was particularly pleased to gain insights into their training programmes and the way they deal with their unions. "We found our associations were more similar than dissimilar," noted Goddard.

The common interests of the visitors and their hosts also helped generate new friendships, according to Goddard. "Some of the people we met said they are planning to attend the next SC&RA Annual Conference," he said. "We're looking forward to seeing them there."

Dandrea also noted that he was thrilled by the participation of members from both visiting and host companies. "It was especially rewarding to hear of the interest of Australian and New Zealand companies in becoming SC&RA members and of existing members there to seek greater involvement in our association," he said.

Like Goddard, Dandrea was encouraged by the very strong support from SC&RA's sister organizations in Australia and New Zealand. "Without their assistance, it would have been virtually impossible to conduct the forum with any degree of success."

CICA's Marshall said he was committed to the spirit of international co-operation developed by John Gillespie, CICA president. Fittingly, while the International Business Forum was taking place, Gillespie was in Ehingen, Germany, with SC&RA representatives, to discuss revisions to the European crane standard (EN13000) during a meeting of the Fédération Européenne de la Manutention / European Federation of Materials Handling (FEM).

"Both SC&RA and CICA are well placed to be major influences on the international industry stage as evidenced by the recent FEM meeting in Germany," said Marshall.

Dandrea agreed, adding that SC&RA also looks forward to working with the New Zealand Heavy Haulage Association on major international issues.

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