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Container crane deliveries edge up

Numbers of STS container gantry cranes are forecast to be up on 2018 by almost 10% to 236 this year, but no return to the heady days of the mid-noughties is likely

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This 65t-66m outreach ZPMC crane, with 30m rail span & 45m lift height above rail, arrived in Ashdod
This 65t-66m outreach ZPMC crane, with 30m rail span & 45m lift height above rail, arrived in Ashdod

The STS container crane market has not been particularly dynamic in the past few years, and annual deliveries have been around the mid-200s range. This year is similar, with the number calculated to be 236.

Overall, the market has recovered if you take a longer perspective. In 2011, around 160 cranes were delivered. Given the lead times involved in STS crane supply, the market in 2011 reflected the slowdown in container traffic after the 2008-09 financial crisis.

This year’s results are boosted by significant changes in delivery dates reported by ZPMC, based on the date of the Final Acceptance Certificate. A number of cranes originally referenced for delivery in 2020 have been moved into the 2019 calendar year. At the same time, several orders originally referenced for 2018 delivery were moved into 2019. The details can be seen in Table 2b.

The Chinese company says it is quite common for crane contract terms to be moved forward or back in terms of deliveries. At any rate, the effect of the changes is to boost ZPMC’s 2019 numbers at the expense of its 2018 figures
and its forward bookings for 2020. Table 1 shows 175 cranes for delivery in 2020. This compares with our figure last July of 158 cranes for delivery in 2019. However, it does not follow that 2020 will prove a bigger year than this one.

As noted above, in overall terms, the STS crane market has recovered from the 2008-09 financial crisis, but growth is nothing like in the heady days of the noughties – when container handlers were running to stand still. Moreover,
the market is unlikely to get back to those levels for the foreseeable future.


In its latest five-year forecast for the global container terminal sector, Drewry Shipping Consultants is forecasting global growth of 4.4% per annum on average, lifting world container throughput from 784M TEU in 2018 to 973M
TEU in 2023.

As Drewry states: “The latest five-year forecast is a far cry from the heady days of the 2000s when forecasts were around 9% growth per annum, until the global financial crisis brought this to a shuddering halt.”

The consultant goes on to forecast that global container port capacity will likely increase at a CAGR of around 2%, based on confirmed additions only. “This is well below the projected demand growth, and reflects the continued
easing off from greenfield projects by investors over the last few years. As a consequence, average utilisation at the global level is forecast to increase significantly from 70% in 2018 to 79% by 2023. This remains a comfortable level for operators and customers alike.”

In other words, terminal operators will want to sweat their assets more intensively. Of course, there are still greenfield projects around, the biggest of which is PSA’s Tuas Mega Port in Singapore. However, only a handful of equipment suppliers have the scale to meet the demand there. A further point is that, as PSA ramps up Tuas and closes existing facilities, large numbers of older but well-maintained serviceable container handling equipment could appear
on the second-hand market.

Italian mystery

Looking at this year’s count, the most surprising result is that Dalian Huarui Heavy Industries (DHHI) is apparently supplying six STS cranes this year to Medcenter Container Terminal, the now MSC-controlled (TIL) transhipment
terminal in southern Italy. These cranes will have a 23-row outreach, bringing the number of such cranes at Medcenter to 12.

Our supposition that DHHI is the supplier is based on remarks reportedly made by the Extraordinary Commissioner of the Port of Gioia Tauro a few weeks ago. Of course, we could turn out to be way off the mark.

However, it is known that the cranes are being built in China, and ZPMC – Medcenter’s STS crane supplier for many years – has confirmed to WorldCargo News that it is not involved in the project.

This is very curious, given that one industry source has told WorldCargo News that the cranes “were originally destined for a TIL project in India”. TIL’s only disclosed partner in India to date is Adani Ports, and ZPMC delivered two STS cranes to Adani Mundra CT4 earlier this year, while a further six cranes have been delivered to Adani Mundra CT2 this year, according to ZPMC.

In January 2018, WorldCargo News Online reported that ZPMC had signed a general contracting project with Adani Ports concerning the development of Vizhinjam port. Last year, ZPMC said that it would be supplying eight STS
cranes to Adani Vizhinjam in March 2019. However, this delivery has now been put back to March 2021.


This might put Vizhinjam in the frame for the Medcenter cranes, but for ZPMC’s denial that it is involved in the project, and the fact that the rail span at Vizhinjam is designated as 35m, while Medcenter’s rail span is 30.48m.

If it is not ZPMC or DHHI, could it be Wuxi Huadong Heavy Machinery Co Ltd (HDHM Wuxi)? This company has built over 40 STS cranes since 2007. Only two of these were exported, but earlier this year, it received an order from
PSA Singapore for 28 ASCs for Tuas Mega Port phase 1 (PSA ordered another 56 from ZPMC).


Perhaps both DHHI and HDHM Wuxi are less likely candidates than Qingdao Haixi Heavy Machinery Co Ltd (HHMC Qingdao). Apart from around 20 cranes for Chinese ports, HHMC Qingdao’s international reference list includes cranes for Port Louis (in association with OMG), Visakha, Jurong, Busan New Port and, for Gulftainer Group, Tripoli in Lebanon.


As can be seen from Table 2a, HHMC Qingdao has booked more international business, including from Port Louis and Busan, and from a new customer, QTerminals in Qatar.


Perhaps crucially in the Medcenter context, HHMC Qingdao was the fabricator for two extraordinary OMG cranes – 60t SWL and 62m outreach (23 rows) on an 19m rail span – delivered to La Spezia Container Terminal (LSCT) in 2015. The six cranes headed for Medcenter this year must have been ordered last year, when LSCT’s operator, Contship Italia, was still involved. However, OMG-Bedeschi has also told WorldCargo News that it is not involved in the Medcenter project.

Both Kalmar and Konecranes can fabricate cranes in China. Perhaps it is one of them, and they are forbidden under the terms of the contract to report it, but that seems unlikely.


The only other European possibility would be Kocks Ardelt. In fact, in a former guise, Kocks was the original crane supplier at Medcenter in the 1990s, later supplanted by ZPMC. Kocks Ardelt did not divulge information for this year’s survey, so we are unaware of any new STS crane business it may have.

Last year, DHHI opened up new business for itself and Chinese industry, with an order for two STS container cranes from Haina Port Authority in the Dominican Republic. The port has recently installed a stable power supply at the container berth, and DHHI has been able to enter the stage of functional commissioning of the cranes. DHHI set up two work groups, each responsible for the functional commissioning, testing and correction, as required, of one crane.

Korean re-entry

Earlier this year, ZPMC reported that it had received orders for 12 E-RTGs for the new Anaklia port project in Georgia, and now it transpires that the four STS cranes also required for phase 1 will come from Hyundai-Samho in Korea. The cranes will be assembled and pre-commissioned in Korea, and then partially dismantled as two-piece shipments into the Black Sea.

Absent from the STS crane market for several years, Hyundai-Samho is back with a bang, as it has also secured part of PSA Singapore’s STS crane procurement for the first stage of Tuas Mega Port, although the lion’s share of the order (20 cranes) has gone to ZPMC.


It is understood that all 24 cranes are designed for automated operation and they all have a second trolley arrangement. The main hoist and trolley speeds are given in the accompanying tables. Hyundai-Samho states that the second trolley has a lift height of 17.7m. Second trolley speed is 130 mpm, and its hoist speeds are 60 mpm and 130 mpm.

The remote control operator (RCO) takes over from the automated part of the cycle when the container is 3m above the intermediate (lashing) platform where there is buffer space for four 20ft or two 40/45ft containers. For the
landside part of the operation, the RCO takes control when the bottom of the container is 1m above the AGV.

35-move target

The horizontal travel distance between the centres of the intermediate platform and the AGV is 26m. The landside area will be covered by an array of cranemounted cameras for remote control, damage inspection, OCR, container status, etc.


It is understood that all the cranes now on order are intended to be delivered without operator cabs. However, the waterside trolleys must be provided with cab mountings, electrical fittings and all other fixtures required should PSA decide to revert to manned operation within a semi-automated crane cycle.

Simulation is currently showing, repeatedly, that a throughput minimum target of 35 moves per crane hour cannot be achieved by unmanned cranes, so PSA is retaining the option to use crane drivers if necessary.


Revealing Liebherr

Last year, Liebherr reported 18 cranes for delivery in 2019, with the names of the customers for eight of them not revealed at the time. The company has now disclosed that the customer for a 35m outreach crane is Barbados Port,
Inc. The customer for two cranes, with an amended outreach of 45m and a SWL of 40t, is the Port of Cork. Another customer for two cranes, originally reported as three, and now with an amended outreach of 38m and SWL of 40t, is the Port of Belfast.

The customer for another two cranes is still a commercial secret, and Liebherr says that the project has been postponed. For these reasons, we have reduced Liebherr’s figure for 2019 to 15, and increased its figure for 2020 by two
to 20.

The STS crane market in German seaports, for years dominated by ZPMC, has flipped to Liebherr’s advantage in the past two to three years. It started with HHLA CTT Tollerort, where Liebherr has now supplied five cranes. Arguably,
CTT is a special case, since the cranes are required to have a 65m outreach and a lift height of 51.5m above rail on a rail span of 18m. Perhaps only Liebherr, with its unique lattice monogirder boom design, could meet the weight and
wheel load limits.

Subsequently, however, Eurogate affiliate company NTB Bremerhaven ordered three giant 73m outreach cranes, and it has now ordered another four, while Eurogate Hamburg has ordered six large cranes, and a further six have been ordered for MINTT Tanger Med, a joint venture of Marsa Maroc, Eurogate and affiliated Contship Italia.

However, it should be pointed out also that ZPMC has five very large cranes going to HHLA CTB Hamburg next year. These are again believed to be twin hoist cranes. The two large cranes going to RWG Rotterdam next year are again believed to be cranes capable of operating with some kind of tandem spreader arrangement, believed to be the Stinis Split-Headblock.


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