Monday, August 12, 2013

Good and Bad News for Makers of Cranes for Containers and Heavy Lift Shipping

Cost Cutting Exercise at One European Based Group Whilst Rivals Report a 'Remarkable' Order
Shipping News Feature

FINLAND – SWITZERLAND – GERMANY – CHINA – Good and bad news for two European manufacturers of the cranes and handling plant which serve ports and other industries around the world. Whilst Finnish based Konecranes has started the process of laying off 600 staff, another company, Liebherr, which also manufactures cranes to the container and general shipping sector, reports what it calls a ‘remarkable’ new order, which sees European made heavy lift cranes being sent to China for installation aboard ships being constructed there.

First the bad, if not unexpected news, as Konecranes follows through on its stock exchange release last month to reduce its cost base by €30 million before the end of 2014. The group will start statutory negotiations in Finland regarding possible temporary and permanent layoffs. It is estimated that the possible permanent personnel reductions in Finland will affect, at most, 90 employees whilst globally a maximum of 600 people are likely to go people through redundancies, temporary layoffs and early retirement, around 5% of the current global workforce.

Staff from all sectors of the group will be affected including at Konecranes plc, Konecranes Finland Oy and Konecranes Service Oy in Finland. In addition to possible permanent layoffs, Konecranes will negotiate possible temporary layoffs and early retirements. The company will also reduce the use of hired personnel and temporary employees and the precise amount and duration of the possible temporary layoffs cannot yet be estimated.

Liebherr meanwhile have confirmed receipt of an order, described by the company as ‘remarkable’, for six of the company’s heavy lift ship cranes for the traditional German shipping company Rickmers-Linie. The cranes are being built by Liebherr-MCCtec Rostock GmbH and will be delivered to the customer in 2014 for installation on two ships in the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai, China, ironically an area which often produces giant container handling cranes for shipment to Europe. Business relations between Liebherr and Rickmers date back to the 1970’s. In 1985 a special on-board crane emerged from the cooperation between the two owner-managed family businesses. For the first time the crane was positioned at the side of a container vessel rather than on the vessel’s centreline, this innovation, coupled with the narrowness of the units gave extra vessel space for an increased payload.

The relationship is somewhat symbiotic with Rickmers global project cargo and heavy lift coverage Liebherr often contracts the Hamburg based line to carry its goods and Liebherr hopes to increase the depth of the trading relationship further with Rickmers declaration that it intends to construct several new vessels in the future. This latest contract emphasizes Liebherr’s increased focus on the maritime heavy lift crane segment, as announced by the company during this years SMM exhibition in Hamburg. The company plans to extend its range of heavy lift ship cranes by one new type per year, saying that in future, ship cranes with lifting capacities of up to 1,000 tonnes will be included in the portfolio.   

The latest order was for four type CBB 4700 with a lifting capacity of 450 tonnes and the remaining two are type CBB 3450 with a lifting capacity of 120 tonnes. The four larger units supersede previous units of the same ship type which ‘only’ handled weights up to 400 tonnes. This was managed whilst still maintaining a low total weight and centre of gravity which increases the parent vessel’s stability.

Photo: Two Liebherr heavy lift cranes mounted aboard a Rickmers Linie vessel, work in tandem to lift another huge load.