Regional business behind whopper of a crane headed for Upper Spencer Gulf


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By Melissa Keogh

Port Augusta-based business Max Cranes is preparing to welcome the largest telescopic crane in the southern hemisphere to its fleet later this year.

The $10m telescopic mobile crane has a capacity of 1200 tonnes and will allow the Upper Spencer Gulf business to expand its capabilities in construction and maintenance of wind towers across the country.

It’ll also be used for construction and heavy lifting activities throughout markets that require specialist heavy lifting.

Managing director Mark Kuhn co-founded Max Cranes in 2002 and says the business has been looking to secure the German-made Liebherr all terrain crane for a number of years.

He says the specialised piece of equipment is the strongest of its kind on the market and has the longest telescopic boom in the world at 100m.

The 1200 tonne crane is the largest in the southern hemisphere.

“The business has spent a lot of time on the selection of the best type of crane to bring into the country that will be a problem solver to all market sectors,” Mark says.

“It has a number of benefits that will set the business apart from the rest. The crane, albeit huge, is efficient and economical in its ability to mobilise/demobilise to project sites and is very agile and flexible on site.”

The new crane, planned to be in operation in November 2018, will be the latest achievement for the leading Upper Spencer Gulf business that has been helping workers reach the heights of our tallest regional infrastructure projects.

The Federal Government supported the acquisition through its Regional Jobs and Investment Package.

“There has been an upward growth curve in our workforce over the past 12–18 months as the infrastructure, power and energy, mining, oil and gas and other influencing markets have started to recover from the downturn of 2014/15,” Mark says.

“We’re looking to further bolster our position in the Upper Spencer Gulf region with the ever-expanding renewable markets, the commitment of GFG Alliance to the Whyalla Steelworks and the expansion of surrounding mining and infrastructure projects within the region.

“Max Cranes is also focused on strengthening our position within the Adelaide market, specifically looking to find solutions to clients in all market sectors.”

Max Cranes employs more than 110 people across its head office at Port Augusta and additional depots at Whyalla, Port Pirie, Moomba and Adelaide.

Its fleet of 38 all terrain cranes range from 15–500 tonne machines. The business also supplies scissor lifts, knuckle booms, and heavy haulage transport services.

All terrain cranes are able to navigate harsh or uneven roads and have greater onsite mobility in workspaces.

Max Cranes is currently the sole crane provider at the Port Pirie Nyrstar Lead Smelter which has employed hundreds of people over the years and is undergoing redevelopment.

Other Max Cranes clients include Santos, Liberty OneSteel, BHP Billiton, Enerven/SA Power Networks, and constructors to AGL, however, its presence on wind farms is set to grow further with South Australia’s burgeoning renewable energy sector.

Max Cranes’ 400 tonne and 500 tonne cranes are used in the maintenance of wind towers, to lift off the rotor – the three blades and hub – and allowing a changeover of gearboxes and other equipment on the turbine.

A Max Crane lifts the rotor off a wind tower.

Mark says the acquisition of the new 1200 tonne crane will allow for future maintenance of the heavier and taller towers built today.

He established Max Cranes with a business partner in 2002 after noticing a gap in the marketplace for crane, transport and access equipment hire in regional SA.

The business began with a fleet of small cranes run out of a small transportable office off the Augusta Highway.

Now the head office is a state-of-the-art building in the same location, with a large maintenance workshop, wash-down bays, a storage shed and staff facilities.

Mark says the challenges of regional SA include the harsh climate, which can reach temperatures of up to 50C in some places.

“But it can change at a moment’s notice to torrential rain, severe winds and everything in between,” he says.

“Being highly reactive to requirements 24/7 is a large part of why we are recognised as experts for working in these remote locations.

“We are operationally prepared, highly experienced and have the systems in place to ensure our staff and client team are safe at all times.”

Max Cranes also runs a dedicated trainee scheme, supporting young apprentices who often go on to be long-term employees and take on roles such as riggers and crane operators.

Mark says the Upper Spencer Gulf has always been an encouraging place to run a business.

“The regions offer experienced, loyal and dedicated people,” he says.

“This in turn has given us the ability to form solid and lengthy relationships with key customers over time.

“South Australians support South Australian – Max Crane is no different.”

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