The mobile harbour crane sector has seen two of the big players continue to deliver in the last year, with worthy additions to their ranges. John Bensalhia reports
It's been another battle of the mobile harbour crane giants in the last year: Liebherr and Gottwald continue to be leading forces when it comes to choosing state-of-the-art mobile cranes for ports.
International Container Terminal Services, Inc (ICTSI) is just one of the many organisations extolling the virtues of both manufacturers. Brian Oakley, vice president for engineering at ICTSI, says that when choosing the right mobile harbour cranes, it considers compliance with its technical and commercial specifications, as well as comparative pricing. “Regarding mobile harbour cranes, ICTSI would not normally consider anything other than Liebherr or Gottwald,” says Mr Oakley.
Liebherr continues to push its high standards in all areas. Leopold Berthold, director of Mobile Harbour Cranes/Reachstackers, comments: “To master the years to come, our efforts will not only concentrate on making our cranes more economic and safer, but at the same time, we will implement sustainable concepts and ideas in close collaboration with our business partners to provide the technical solutions for the future.”
Liebherr's reputation as a key player in the sector was cemented last year after the company won the Crane Of The Year award at the IBJ Award Ceremony – for the second year on the trot. The crane in question was the LHM 500, which was recognised for its high performance and reliability. It has a maximum lifting capacity of 140 tonnes and a maximum outreach of 51 m. It is also designed for a turnover up to 1,500 t/h in bulk and to handle vessels up to capesize class.
Another new Liebherr offering is the LHM 420 mobile harbour crane, a new heavyweight crane which is the successor of the LHM 400. Available in two variants with maximum lifting capacities of 84 and 124 tonnes, the LHM 420 benefits from an undercarriage system that allows for great manoeuvrability and a cruciform supporting system that allows for stability and operational safety.
Gottwald mobile harbour cranes are also a popular choice across the globe. In the last year alone, the company has received interest from ports in countries such as South Korea, Ecuador, Russia and the USA. The Gottwald cranes are built to deal with all forms of cargo – they are designed with lifting capacities of up to 200 tonnes and radii of up to 56 metres, and are adapted to cope with all sorts of adverse weather conditions experienced in ports.
Gottwald cranes benefit from a robust axle concept – this allows the axles to be individually steered and also features large tyres and vertical compensation of up to +/- 250 mm. As a result, this allows for easy manoeuvrability through bottlenecks, the ability to cope with obstacles such as rails and uneven terrain, and also safety when travelling – even in high force winds. In addition, Gottwald's diesel-electric drive ensures reliability, as well as low operating and maintenance costs.
With all these benefits in mind, what are port operators looking for when they choose the right mobile harbour crane? “Safety, quality, environment, price and cost of ownership are the aspects considered during the analysis and decision making process,” says Natasha Bukhari, global corporate communications senior manager at DP World. “Mobile harbour cranes allow for short lead times, flexibility and standard design.”
ICTSI's Brian Oakley adds that mobile harbour cranes are useful for a number of instances such as: “Low volume operation; a temporary quick-fix solution to enhance operational capacity before the infrastructure for other gantry cranes is available; and where flexibility between berths and quays presents an operational advantage.”
However, one important aspect to consider when choosing the right mobile harbour crane is size. More precisely, the size of a mobile harbour crane can be a potential problem if they aren't treated with the right care. “The size of a mobile crane depends on the operation,” says Ms Bukhari. “Its size may only restrict its mobility to move around the terminal. For example, if the mobile harbour crane is large and the terminal is an older generation with limited deck/road capacity, then moving the MHC around the terminal may well be restricted to designated routes to suit the deck's capability and/or capacity.”
Not only that, but a mobile crane operator needs the right kind of expertise and experience to use it. Adverse weather conditions can potentially prove to be a hazard with some of the mobile harbour cranes that maybe don't have the same strength as others. Strong winds, for example, can cause a certain amount of sway, and without the right amount of skill used by the driver, this can prove to be a big problem. Not only that, but port operators need to be aware that cranes are heavy vehicles – add to that the loads that they carry, and this will cause great pressure on port quays.
Therefore, it's vital that the loading weights are properly and carefully checked in order to reduce the risk of too much pressure – not only that, but care should be taken when operating with more than one crane in order to avoid collisions and potential accidents.
Experience and care are the key watchwords here: The more thought and planning that's put into mobile crane usage - the higher the efficiency. And as Ms Bukhari points out: “Safety factors are designed into the crane by the manufacturer and have safety protection systems installed to protect the crane during operations.”
“Size is related to the type of operation and chosen carefully according to requirements,” adds Mr Oakley. “Mobile cranes are also as 'strong' as their specification defines – no more, no less. They can offer a heavy lift facility for short out-reach lifts.” Mr Oakley also acknowledges that while mobile harbour cranes have multiple benefits, the operating techniques are quite different from gantry cranes: “The skills don't easily transfer between each.”
But even taking these issues into consideration, mobile harbour cranes are considerable assets to ports. With the advances in technology, any environmental and safety problems will aim to be be remedied – the Pactronic hybrid drive system is a case in point. Mobile harbour cranes can get the job done with strength, efficiency, and – with the right care and attention – minimal fuss.
Mr Oakley sums up by saying: “ICTSI terminals believe that each type of crane offers its own benefit. Carefully chosen and specified for the operational requirements, each – including mobile harbour cranes - can yield specific efficiencies.”
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