A comprehensive round up of the crawler crane market

By Euan Youdale14 October 2010

Three Zoomlion QUY600 crawler cranes at the STX Shipyard in South Korea

Three Zoomlion QUY600 crawler cranes at the STX Shipyard in South Korea

Manufacturers are still building their 2,000 tonne capacity and larger giant heavy lift crawler cranes but it's the medium and large capacity ranges of machines that are keeping the market moving.

The development of giant crawlers in the 3,000 tonne capacity class has continued through 2010, although progress has been slower than expected in some quarters.

Development work on the flagship 3,000 tonne capacity Liebherr LR 13000 will continue, despite cancellation of some projects for which it would be suited, says Wolfgang Beringer at Liebherr-Werk Ehingen in Germany. At the beginning of October, the crane was placed on its special concrete foundation, built over the previous few weeks at Liebherr's crawler crane test field at Ehingen. It is 40 m long, 30 m wide and 1.5 m deep. "A part of the derrick boom is already mounted. In the next weeks we will erect the main boom with a length of 60 m," adds Beringer.

Although there is no signed contract of sale for an LR 13000, Beringer explains that the crane is designed for a new generation of nuclear and petrochemical plants. "The reactors are growing in size - 100 metres long and 1,500 tonnes in weight." In addition, the availability of such a large crawler will influence the market, adds Beringer. "When the market knows these machines are available then they will make bigger modules, including, for instance, bigger bridge sections."

In due course potential customers will be invited to see the new machine and, "then we are sure in the next few months there will be sales," says Beringer.

Heavy weights

This time last year, Indian rental giant ABG was considering development of a super heavy lift crane, in the 5,000 tonne capacity region, with the expectation of imminent nuclear power developments in the country. Now, however, according to Saket Agarwal, managing director of ABG's parent company ABG Heavy Industries, the USA/India 123 agreement has stalled, which means ABG's plans for a high capacity crane to build the nuclear power plants, are also on hold.

Another manufacturer working on a mammoth machine is Manitowoc. During the third quarter 2010, the 2,535 US ton (2,300 tonne) capacity Model 31000 underwent main boom overload testing, during which it lifted 5.5 million pounds (2,495 tonnes) of test weight. Luffing jib testing will follow in the fourth quarter. The testing will take another nine to 12 months, but the crane can be shipped before then, according to the company.

Jerry Maloney, global product director of Manitowoc's crawler crane division, hopes demand picks up for the big crawler as the company is building a second unit.

Terex Cranes' 3,200 tonne capacity CC 8800-1 Twin, launched back in 2007, will see a delivery of a third unit this year. "There are two cranes in operation right now and number three is ready for delivery by the end of September," says Guntram Jakobs, product marketing manager for crawler cranes, speaking in September. "The Twin is lifting reactors and large construction parts for oil platforms, for example. Besides that, it is busy erecting large power plants, especially in China," Jakobs adds.

Zoomlion has joined fellow Chinese manufacturer Sany with plans to add super heavy lifters to its range. It says the design for a 3,200 tonne capacity lattice boom crawler is expected to be finished by the end of 2010.

Market movers

While the world market for crawlers above 2,000 tonnes capacity has taken a backward step in recent months, demand for machines in the 1,000 to 1,700 tonne range is still proving to be relatively strong, particularly in China.

Sany's new 1,763 tonne capacity crawler is an example. It is due to start work in early 2011, and orders for the first units have, predictably, come from Chinese customers, says LaRese Ferguson, in sales and marketing at Sany. The machine is part of a co-development agreement with Guangdong Power Engineering Corporation, signed in October 2008. Its maximum load moment rating is 25,000 tonne-metres. Interest in the machine has come mainly from inside China, with the official launch taking place at Bauma China in November 2010. The crane complies with the certification requirements of CE, North America, Australia, Russia and Chinese Taiwan, says Sany.

Zoomlion will show its new 1,000 tonne capacity crawler crane at the show. The QUY1000 has a load moment rating of 15,800 tonne-metres, while maximum lifting height is 195 m. A heavy duty main boom is available up to 90 m long. It will lift 650 tonnes to a height of 63 m at 22 m radius, the manufacturer said. The first unit was delivered to Shanghai Construction Company at the end of 2009 to help build a nuclear power station project, but the project is yet to begin.

Further afield

Outside China, Japan-based Hitachi Sumitomo Heavy Industries Construction Crane Co, has launched two crawlers this year. The models demonstrate the demand for increased flexibility. The 200 tonne capacity SCX2000A-2 has a 272 kW engine, equivalent to that commonly found in 275 tonne machines, says the company. In addition, the crane has a counterweight self-installation and removal device adapted from Hitachi Sumitomo's larger machines.

The 500 tonne capacity Hitachi Sumitomo 6000SLX crawler is designed to meet growing demand in this capacity range. A version of the crane was first seen at ConExpo 2008 in the form of US sister company Link-Belt's 548 model. Though following the same basic design, there are differences between the two cranes. "The 548 has faster winch speed and the cab is laid out a little differently with a few extra features. The differences tailor the 548 to the markets in the west," says Jeff Schmidt at Link-Belt.

Another example of a popular crane in the same capacity range is Terex Cranes' 600 tonne CC 2800-1, one of the manufacturer's most popular models. An NT (narrow track) version has just been delivered to IMPSA Wind, in Brazil. "The CC 2800-1, in all variations, is a very successful model. With more than 300 units sold, we are leading this class," says Guntram Jakobs.

"The CC 2800-1 NT is well known in the windmill business. The crane can be driven from windmill to windmill rigged with 102 m main boom plus 12 m fixed jib and 180 tonne counterweight. The narrow track allows travel on prepared access roads for the trucks by less than 20 tonnes per square metre foot print."

Liebherr has similar experience in this area of the market. Wolfgang Beringer says its best selling crawler is the 600 tonne capacity LR 1600/2, although the news is positive across the board. "In 2010 we produced 70 big lattice boom cranes here in Ehingen, from 350 to 1,350 tonnes capacity, which is a new record for us. And we think no other company in the world is producing so many big crawler cranes presently."

Setting trends

There is no doubt that larger capacity crawler cranes are keeping the world market afloat. More than 70% of Kobelco cranes sold overseas are above 120 tonnes capacity, says the manufacturer. Most popular is the 250 tonne CKE2500 model, adds Mike Maruo, senior director, marketing. While there have been no new Kobelco crawlers in the last year, a new option for existing models has been introduced. A special joint hydraulic oil flow option, the conflux circuit, has been designed to enhance winch power output on the 120 and 200 tonne models. It will aid foundation work and is proving popular in Japan, says Maruo.

Enhancing existing machines is increasingly common, partly because, in these economic times, it is often preferable to buying a new crane. Manitowoc's wind attachment for its Model 16000 crawler crane is another recent example. It is designed to boost the machine's lifting capacity, enabling it to erect the latest wind turbines.

Smaller ranges

Although lower capacity crawlers, below 100 tonnes, are experiencing difficulties in Western markets and other previously booming regions, for example, the Middle East, there are other areas where demand is still growing.

In India ABG's new 120,000 square metre crawler crane factory is now up and running. Six 80 tonne capacity crawlers have been manufactured and already put into operation. Another five are on order, and once they have been completed the factory will also focus on a 160 tonne model. According to Agarwal, testing will begin on the 160 tonner by April 2011. Following that, Agarwal continues, the company will set its sights on a 35 tonne model. The facility can manufacture crawlers up to 250 tonnes capacity, although no cranes above 160 tonnes are planned for now. The plant is currently producing two cranes a month, adds Agarwal, and this will increase to five per month in 2011.

Despite ABG's manufacturing success, competition is strong in India, from Chinese and Japanese manufacturers, says Agarwal, so the company is not looking to increase its market share in the country, but simply produce "a good product at a competitive price," Agarwal explains.

Japanese crane manufacturer Kobelco Cranes will also build crawler cranes in India. Investment by the wholly owned subsidiary of Kobe Steel will be Yen 1.2 billion / Rupee 600 million (US$13 million) to construct a plant scheduled to begin production in October 2011. Kobelco Cranes India Pvt. Ltd. (KCI), a wholly owned subsidiary, was established in August 2010 and there will be about 70 employees.

Kobelco says that the Indian market for crawler cranes, which reached about 200 units in 2009, will grow to 700 units in the next five years on the back of strong infrastructure investment. The new Indian plant will be Kobelco's first overseas production facility. The manufacturer said it will be the world's first major foreign mobile crane manufacturer to build crawlers in India. Crawlers will be built between 90 and 250 tonnes capacity.

In addition to India, Kobelco will also build a crawler crane factory in China. It is part of a joint venture with Chenggong Construction Machinery Co., Ltd. (CG). The agreement, being signed in October 2010, will form the Chengdu Kobelco Cranes Co., Ltd. partnership, of which Kobelco will own 51%. It will start production in August 2012, concentrating on Kobelco's existing 250 tonne capacity CKE2500 model.

Kobelco said Yen 2 billion (US$23.3 million) will be invested in the new plant and it aims to produce 80 crawler cranes a year by 2015 to meet about 7% of total demand in China. According to the manufacturer, the annual Chinese market for crawler cranes is about 700 units, with worldwide demand reaching 2,500.

West moving east

Western manufacturers are also continuing to expand to the east, particularly China. Terex Corporation has announced its acquisition of 65% of privately held Chinese crane manufacturer Topower. Jinan-based Shandong Topower Heavy Machinery Manufacture Co Ltd designs and manufactures crawler, gantry, derrick and bridge cranes. It was established in 2007. The agreement expands Terex's product offering in China with 70, 90, 120, 250, and 360 tonne machines branded EBHM.

"Topower Cranes has established a reputation for producing high quality crawler cranes that are now mostly serving the energy industry, but have wider potential applications in Chinese and other Asian markets," says Guntram Jakobs.

Similarly, the Chinese manufactures continue their exploration into Western territories. Zoomlion is particularly active, and is making inroads across Europe and the USA. In 2008 it bought the substantial portion of Italian concrete manufacture CIFA Group, as part of a consortium deal. The Chinese manufacturer is using the group as a launch pad for its wider range of products. In the USA there is a specific aim to expand its crawler crane range through the CIFA USA division. Matteo Rolla, CIFA USA president and CEO, says the manufacturer is at the beginning of a long term strategy to move into the USA crawler market.

"At the moment we aim to have a complete understanding of the market. In terms of product availability, certain product lines are ready for sale with minor adjustments, others are at various stages of development when it comes to the American safety and technical requirements, for which we are devoting much attention and care," says Rolla. "Different products may have different channels. We are considering all opportunities with an open mind - definitely the development of a distributor network is one of them."

Opportunities

While the economic downturn continues to hit hard in North America, the South American crawler market, particularly Brazil, is growing. Kobelco is just one global manufacturer seeing sales in the country. "Our cranes that are being used there are mainly brought by European crane companies but local contractors have started buying directly from Kobelco," says Maruo. "We are not sure how big the potential is, but the market is new and we are interested in it."

Terex sees South America as a potential market for all sizes of crawler cranes. "With rising living standards, energy demand is growing. This leads to new developments in construction and infrastructural buildings like roads, bridges and power plants," says Jakobs.

Globally, however, the market is market still on a downward trend, says Hayato Takebe, head of sales promotion at Japan-based Hitachi Sumitomo Heavy Industries Construction Crane Co., Ltd."The situation surrounding us is still tough and prospects are dimming. The severe situation continues, because of the Yen's strengthening trend, although the market conditions in newly developing country regions are slightly recovering.

Maruo echoes these sentiments. "There are projects globally which can expect crane requirements but most of them are still in a wait-and-see situation for various reasons, particularly the Middle East, with mega projects in Saudi Arabia, Australian gas projects, USA wind power generation, infrastructure, etc. On the other hand, the markets in emerging countries, such as India, are still expanding based on aggressive investments for energy related industries and infrastructure."

One of these emerging countries is, of course, China. In August 2010 Off-Highway Research said crawler crane sales showed spectacular growth in the country, with a total market of 650 units, or 1.6 times the level of sales achieved in the same period of 2009. "The major domestic companies have now improved their ranges to over 1,000 tonne lift capacity, and the largest 1,600 tonne model is now being developed," says a spokesman. "Developing countries will be the future. However, funding is the question, so the countries where they have natural resources will provide high expectations."

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