Tower cranes on demand as pace of construction hots up

With construction activity in Dubai at an all-time high, demand for both mobile and tower cranes has gone through the roof. Zoe Naylor reports on another industry straining to meet supply.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  November 5, 2005

the number of high-rise construction projects in the uae has led to an unprecedented demand for tower cranes|~|94prod200.gif|~|Golden Sands Tower: Luffing jib tower cranes, such as the ones being used on this development, are becoming increasingly popular in Dubai.|~|Construction activity in Dubai has reached record levels with an estimated 2000 tower cranes operating around the emirate. It is the highest concentration of tower cranes anywhere in the world and demand is now far outstripping supply. So much so that lead times of up to 14 months for particular types of crane are not uncommon. From Dubai Marina and Festival City to Jumeirah Beach Residences and the airport expansion, the city is a lucrative market for tower crane manufacturers and suppliers. But the frenetic pace of high-rise construction in the emirate means that the demand for these giants is far outstripping the supply. “The market here for tower cranes is extremely demanding and no manufacturer today has enough capacity in their factories to meet that demand,” says David Semple, sales director for Manitowoc Crane Group, which owns Potain. In a bid to keep pace, Potain has increased its manufacturing capacity for tower cranes by a massive 50% in its French factory over the course of 2005, and is also opening a new factory in China which will double production. But despite increases in manufacturing capacity, Semple says they’re still far from being able to meet the requirements of Dubai. The result is the market is opening its doors to new suppliers. “For a market which used to be dominated by only two crane manufacturers — ourselves and Liebherr — it is now a much more open ground for many other players. Italian manufactures are now supplying all the cranes at the Dubai airport expansion and the Chinese are also coming in a big fashion; in the UAE they sold around 59 tower cranes in 2005.” Contractors from Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are also descending on the emirate to hunt for increasingly scarce machinery. The trend has pushed up the price of second hand kit as contractors and hire companies are willing to buy older cranes to keep up with demand. A spokesman for Al Wasit Machinery said that prices for some models of mobile crane in the second hand market had increased by between 20% to 30% over the course of the year. In the mobile crane sector, approximately 90% of new cranes being imported into the market are going direct to the hire companies, leaving little available for other buyers and forcing prices up. Bernd Wittenberg at the Dubai office of crane giant Liebherr, said: “Second hand mobile cranes are becoming a problem. “And for new mobile cranes we have delivery times of between six and fourteen months. If you order a 70 tonner today, you will get it in September next year.” The hire market has also been hit with many crane hire companies being forced to turn potential customers away. “There is a huge shortage of cranes and there are people coming from Oman, Bahrain and Qatar hunting for cranes. “Because of the demand many buyers are not as fussy about the make or model,” said Arty Wartanian, general manager of Gallagher International. With construction activity gearing up still further in the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, that situation is unlikely to change quickly.||**||

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