The market for sidelifters is said to be growing on a global basis
The key selling point of sidelifters has always been the ability for a truck driver to deliver a container without the need for extra equipment or infrastructure. Only the container is left behind not the trailer, so equipment can be fully utilised, while the shipper or importer does not need to have a loading dock or dock leveller.
Steelbro, which has been part of Australia-based Howard Porter Pty Ltd since 2015, says it is “going from strength to strength” with its long-established sidelifter business. Last year – the company’s 140th anniversary – it developed
some new partnerships, broke into new markets, and came up with some new products.
In Thailand, Samut Sakorn-based Thai Reefer Group was appointed as distributor, and the first Steelbro sidelifter sale in that country has been made. The company also took advantage of growing opportunities in parts of North and Central America, and its distributor network was expanded to include Kestrel Liner Agencies LLP, handling the Caribbean Basin, and TransCargoPlus LLC, responsible for Midwest USA, Mexico and Panama. This year has seen the first Steelbro sidelifter sale to the Azores islands, with a logistics group that handles over 400,000 40ft and 20ft containers a year.
Last year also saw Steelbro dip its toe into the Russian/CIS market for the first time, teaming up with Mora Trading Ltd in St Petersburg . The first unit has been assembled by Russo-German firm Meusburger-Novtrak, based in Veliky Novgorod near St Petersburg, under the supervision of engineers from New Zealand. The cranes and automation kit were produced at Steelbro’s China factory. The sidelifter will be used by management service company AGI-CDCS Kazakhstan JV, to handle containers at Tengiz, one of the largest post-Soviet oil and gas fields in Kazakhstan, which produces 27 Mtpa of oil.
The sidelifter will handle containers up to 45t and transport them more efficiently than other equipment. Mora Trading has been actively promoting these units throughout its territories – the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Belarus,
Kyrgyzstan and Armenia – and is reporting growing interest from the chemicals market.
Steelbro recognises that technology must be adapted to meet the needs of the particular market and different customer requirements. “Our product offering is a balance between standard and customised products,” said Peter Dobbs, Steelbro’s general manager. “Continuing innovation calls for heavy investment, and the team is willing to make that commitment to stay ahead of the game. New product development at Steelbro is focused on delivering reduced tare weights, increased speed of operation and low manufacturing costs.”
Whilst variations across the markets may differ, there is still increased competition in the transport market which means customers still need to maximise payloads and improve overall efficiencies. This drives demand for a durable and weight-optimised unit.
Dobbs continued: “Throughout the past year, Steelbro has continued to innovate. This helped the organisation deliver strong growth across its markets in 2018, and this growth has continued into the first half of 2019.”
Steelbro successfully launched its 36t lift capacity sidelifter optimised for rail to the Russian market. This modified sidelifter has a leg design that positions the stabiliser under the railway wagon, allowing payloads to be optimised, as the leg can extend close to the centre line of the wagon.
The sidelifter can be fitted with an optional top lift frame, ideal for use when containers are stacked closely together where bottom pockets of the container are inaccessible. The top lift frame lifts the container from above, with twistlocks automatically activating remotely at the press of a button.
A new 36t sidelifter (SB362) variant has been launched into the Malaysian market, where the established SB450 model is already popular. “We set out to produce a sidelifter that met the optimum needs of low tare weight, while at the same time delivering proven strength and durability,” said Steelbro.
The SB362 enjoys a strong presence in the commercial road transport market in New Zealand, Australia and in parts of Europe, as it lifts up to 36t, yet meets the gross vehicle weight challenge. Although based on this design, the SB362 in Malaysia has been carefully modified for the local market.
This customised unit has a heavy-duty chassis to cater for the Malaysian environment and conditions, and uses similar running gear to the SB450 for seamless integration with other units in the fleet. The unit is also JPJ and Dosh-compliant.
The new Malaysia model is not expected to replace the SB450 unit, but will offer an alternative choice, and in some cases supplement the existing fleet.
Rolling the drum
Innovation is high on the agenda of the other sidelifter manufacturer with global reach, Swedenbased Hammar Maskin AB. A new spreader has been devised for the Hammar Drum Loader (pictured above), able to handle drums of 3.5m-4.5m in diameter and 2.5-4.0m in width. Previously, only one size could be handled. On the regular container Hammarlifts, it is now easier to handle palletwide containers and the crane arms now have even more protection against paint wear.
Hammar’s marketing manager, Samuel Gottfridsson, remarked that record sales were achieved last year in Australia, largely thanks to the Hammar 110 with the StepOver support leg (WorldCargo News, July 2018, p22). This has
also been very successful in New Zealand, and has now also been introduced to Europe, where the market has traditionally been more cautious.
However, sales to transport companies – globally Hammar’s biggest customer base – have been really strong, and in just one year, as many Hammar 110s have been sold as the previous 155 model in the past eight years. A big selling point is the low tare weight, and many are being used in intermodal applications, lifting containers directly on/off rail cars.
Production generally has picked up, and the company sees considerable potential in the US market. Delivering and collecting containers for speciality crops from farms is one opportunity, but Hammar does not see a need for its all-terrain variant (as used in the mining industry) in the agricultural segment. Sidelifters in general have specific advantages, such as low ground pressure and the relatively small space needed for handling containers or flats.
Traditionally one of Hammar’s biggest markets has been Iceland, with a population of 40-50 machines. Eimskip and Samskip have been key customers. Eimskip received three new Hammarlifts earlier this year, one of which can lift fully laden 20fts and 40fts even though tare weight is just 7.9t.
In the past, Hammar worked with a number of local workshops in Iceland, but last November, it appointed Veltir as its main service partner. Veltir opened a new 4,000 m2 service centre in Brimborg, has trained Hammar personnel, and has readily available spare parts, as well as a number of service offers, such as yearly crane inspections. Veltir also services all Volvo trucks on the island.
Gottfridsson explained that design of sideloader cranes, support legs and trailers is all based at Hammar’s manufacturing facility in Olsfors (near Gothenburg), and all cranes and support legs are built there. In the past 1-2 years,
Hammar has invested significantly to expand production at Olsfors, which accounts for delivery of complete units to most of the world – Europe, Africa and part of Asia, North and South America. For the important Australia, NZ and Malaysia markets, trailers are built using prefabricated steel shipped from Sweden, with parts bought and mounted locally.
The sideloaders can be powered either by the truck’s hydraulics or a separate power unit, which is also designed in Olsfors, although the engine is a bought component. Generally, Hammar recommends using the truck, as it saves on tare weight and is more cost-effective. The downside is a loss of flexibility, since it limits the transport operator’s choice of truck.