The first Cranes and Transport Middle East (CATME) conference in Dubai on 8 December attracted more than 200 delegates, with one of the key themes of the presentations being the increased demands placed on heavy lift specialists by clients, both technical and commercial.
Maher Kabbani, manager of the heavy lift department at Contractor CCC, who opened the conference at the Conrad Dubai hotel, said projects were being cancelled or delayed, there was pressure on costs, and clients were shifting more risk onto heavy lift contractors; “We have to get into the habit of doing more for less.”
He said lean construction methods were reducing the cost of contracts by as much as 30 or 40% and that this was forcing lifting specialists to work smarter; “People don’t want to change, but we have to change.”
He added that many of the large cranes that entered the Middle East market during the boom years when the oil price was high were still operating in the region, creating a highly competitive heavy lift market; “How many 1000 t capacity cranes do we have in the region? There are 15, and about 140-150 in the whole world. We have 10% of these cranes here.”
The sector where there were most opportunities was in infrastructure projects, including jobs linked to the Qatar 2022 World Cup and the Expo 2020. “Companies have to realign their business strategy”, said Mr Kabbani.
Another speaker, Burhan Kuris, commercial manager at Mammoet Middle East, detailed how clients were demanding more from their lifting specialists. He said a big lifting job in 2004 would see the client moving the load to the site and even arranging visas for the crane company’s staff; “Now we are doing it from factory to foundation…There has to be a line somewhere, but this is the situation. We don’t want to be an EPC contractor.”
The competitive and commercial landscape may be challenging, but Matthias Herles, director consulting, Economic and Country Risk at consultant IHS Markit, was able to paint a more positive economic outlook for the region, with rising oil prices and the recent OPEC agreement on lower oil production helping to boost growth.
He said construction markets in the Middle East were likely to see annual growth rates of around 3.9% up to 2020, and similar or slightly lower rates in the period 2020-25; “In 2017-18 we expect it will grow on a moderate path.”
The conference also saw some good humoured debate between three of the region’s major tower crane players: Nabil Al Zahlawi of NFT, Dr Peter Schiefer from Wolffkran and Samir Al-Mughanni of United Equipment Group in Qatar.
Mr Al Zahlawi argued that old cranes – more than 10 or 15 year old – should be taken out of the market. Dr Schiefer responded that proper condition monitoring of cranes meant that they could potentially be used for much longer, prompting Mr Al Zahlawi to point out that towers in the Middle East were typically used six days a week and sometimes 24 hours a day, making a 15 year working lift equivalent to 30 or 40 years operation in Europe.
The success of the event means that a second CATME is very likely, probably returning to Dubai in two years. Announcements on the next event will be made on www.khl.com and in the pages of International Cranes and Specialized Transport.
This year’s event was supported by gold sponsors Jaso and Wolffkran. Supporting sponsors were Blokcam, Manitowoc, Modulift, NFT, Ritchie Brothers, Sennebogen, Tadano and Tecnik-1 Lifting. Supporting organisations were Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association, European Association of Specialized Transport and Mobile Cranes, Lifting Equipment Engineers Association, and Project Cargo Network.