Climbing higher

04 March 2008

AmQuip's new MR605B Potain is working on the new 50 story Ritz Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia, PA

AmQuip's new MR605B Potain is working on the new 50 story Ritz Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia, PA

Tower cranes are the rising star in the realm of high rise construction throughout North America. Tower crane usage has catapulted upward over the last decade with rental rates and demand all on the up and up. In addition, there are a host of new players in the North American tower crane market, including brands from Italy, Germany and China.

Lewis Equipment Co., based near Dallas, is among the largest tower crane rental companies in the US. The company reports that it maintains the youngest equipment fleet of tower cranes available.

In 2006, Lewis introduced the SunCrane flat top tower crane series into the US. Manufactured in China, this modular style tower crane is offered in six different models, ranging from 4 to 24 ton lifting capacity and equipped with the latest drive and control technology, according to Jeff Pedigo, marketing manager.

Prior to 2006, Lewis Equipment's fleet consisted of a variety of makes of tower cranes, but a few years back the company made the strategic decision to sell and rent the SunCrane brand exclusively. Sticking to one brand offers many advantages, according to the company, mainly because parts are interchangeable, and set up and maintenance is easier when service personnel are dealing with just one brand of crane.

“In the more than 20 years since we opened our doors, we have refined the ability to seek out and locate the most technologically advanced manufacturers of rugged construction equipment that the world has to offer,” says Pedigo. “Lewis Equipment offers the most complete range of tower cranes to meet nearly all project requirements. We provide tower crane equipment to your job site on a bare rental or with an operator. Currently we operate eight offices throughout the US, with our newest office in New Zealand. Lewis also serves Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.”

Assessing that the demand for tower cranes would increase, AmQuip Corp. based in Bensalem, PA made the strategic decision in 2004 and 2005 to build up a substantial tower crane business, investing in a new fleet of Manitowoc Potain and Terex tower cranes, and acquiring two companies with significant tower crane fleets. To handle this segment of the business AmQuip established a separate tower crane division in Birmingham, AL.

Dennis Bates, vice president of AmQuip's tower crane division, says things slowed down a bit in the tower crane market in the summer of 2007 due to project delays. “But things are not slow now,” he says. “We are covered up getting orders fulfilled and our 2008 backlog of work looks extremely good.”

Bates says his team's goals are to “get them out, get them up and to make some money.”

AmQuip has tower cranes on small- and large-scale projects throughout the country, especially in the Northeast and Southeast. “We continue to see strong growth in our luffer market in Boston, New York and Philadelphia,” Bates says.

AmQuip recently erected a new Manitowoc Potain MR605B on the new 50-story Ritz Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia, PA. The crane is leased to B. Petrini & Sons. When the crane tops out it will be on 542 feet of tower working with 164 feet of jib, Bates says. “This project will top out mid-2008,” he reports.

James Lomma of Lomma Crane & Rigging, based in New Jersey, has found a market niche renting and selling the Favelle Favco brand of tower cranes. These cranes are especially suited to build the very tall buildings, such as the new Freedom Tower under construction at the Ground Zero site in New York City, as well as the new Goldman Sachs building in that same Battery Park vicinity.

Lomma tells ACT that this segment of the market has done very well for his company and that the diesel-powered Favco machines are well suited for mid and high-rise construction in cities throughout the US.

“We bought them and began using them when no one else was using them or knew about them,” he says. “We were able to get in our orders early with Favco, and we are getting most of the new machines being brought in for the next few years. We are able to get cranes when no one else could get them.”

Lomma rents out other brand tower cranes as well, including Krøll and Manitowoc Potain luffers.

“The domestic tower crane business has been growing stronger,” he says. “Tower cranes are relatively new to the US market, compared with other parts of the world.”

Michael Khoo of Favelle Favco, says Favco luffers are renowned for their high speed and heavy lift capabilities. “We continue to see a growing demand for the Favco luffers particularly in large scale industrial and power plant projects,” Khoo explains.

On the subject of the two Lomma-owned Favco 760 tower cranes now working at Ground Zero, Khoo says, “We are proud to be a part of the reconstruction effort [of the new Freedom Tower,] just like we were during the construction of the original towers.”

Eagle West Cranes, based in Abbotsford, BC, Canada has been among the most aggressive companies in bringing new tower crane brands to North America. Over the past two years, the company has introduced the Wilbert range of tower cranes to the market and more recently the San Marco line.

Wilbert produces a range of tower cranes rated from 150 to 650 ton-meters, as well as a 205 ton-meter luffing tower crane. Wilbert cranes are manufactured in Stromberg, Germany. The company is finishing up a new 215,289 square foot production plant that will open in the next few months. Annual production capacity at the new facility will be 500 tower cranes a year.

Eagle West has also begun selling and renting the San Marco brand of tower cranes, which comprises a range of city and tower cranes from 37 to 150 ton-meters.

San Marco has been manufacturing cranes in Borgomanero, Italy since 1961 and has an annual production capacity of 450 units.

Eagle West's Gerry Wiebe says the market for tower cranes remains strong and the new brands in the market are getting a good reception in markets throughout North America.

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