The market preference for Hydra cranes is tending towards eight-tyre based, front operator cabin and boom mounted wheel operated steer, Hydraulic mobile cranes. The pros and cons of this emerging trend are presented by EQUIPMENT INDIA.
Hydra series articulated, tyre mounted, hydraulic mobile, pick-and-carry cranes have been the most popular lift and reach equipment in India, for the past several decades. Apparently the rental market for such cranes is still growing. A revisit to this rental segment reveals significant changes and new trends emerging, as a consequence of more serious safety issues attributable to this equipment.
Nowadays, the tractor-based articulated, tyre mounted, hydraulic mobile, pick-and-carry cranes are not being preferred by the end-users. In fact, large and medium construction contractors like Tata Projects, L&T ECC and others have banned the use of such cranes at their project sites like elevated metro projects. Operational safety is the prime reason for this ban because this crane topples while in operation at sites which specially have very rough and undulated underfoot conditions. Over 3,500 units of such cranes with lifting capacity in the range of 8-14 tonne are still operational in the market. Most cranes are used for loading and unloading of operations in smooth underfoot environment like urban areas, material stock yards and by small contractors who are less safety conscious.
Safe pick and carry option
Safety being the major reason banning the use of the traditional hydra cranes by safety conscious contractors as well as project owners has resulted in an increased preference of the more stable 15 tonne capacity, eight-tyre, hydraulic mobile, articulated, steering wheel controlled steer cranes. Popular crane models are F15 by Escorts and FX 150 by ACE. These cranes are also equipped with electronic safe load indicator and have front out riggers for better stability during heavy lift operations. Longer boom length and high travel speed are additional advantages to the users, in terms of high reach, inter/intra site movements and above all, low maintenance costs. Rajinder Raina, General Manager - Marketing, Escorts Ltd confirms, ¨DMRC has prohibited the use of Hydra cranes at its sites. In fact, the right word is banned. Similarly, Reliance has procured nearly 300 units of F15 cranes for their refinery expansion project at Jamnagar.¨ He further adds, ¨No corporate customer allows the use of Hydra cranes at their project sites as well. In both cases, the prime concern was safety and advantage of high travel speed of this equipment.¨
Although Hydra crane rental companies are spread all over India, the major concentration is in North and West regions. Off late, the numbers have declined in South, while East region is still remains at the bottom of the list. Many crane hirers located in Mumbai, Pune and NCR, supply cranes to many Northeast locations like Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur and Tripura because the infrastructure development has gathered pace in this region and the local hirers did not possess adequate number of cranes to meet the market demand.
¨The Hydra crane rental market can be classified in to corporate and retail. The major chunk of Hydra cranes lies in the retail segment which is primarily dominated by 12 tonne Hydra,¨ says Raina. He adds, ¨The gap between 12 tonne and 10 tonne Hydra cranes is very narrow while 14 tonne capacity is way far. The advantage of 12 tonne compared to the 10 tonne Hydra is very attractive to the customers and they are willing to pay a small premium for the same.¨
Out of the several thousand pick-and-carry cranes plying on rent in India, nearly 40 per cent are in the F15 class while the rest comprise 10-14 tonne capacity conventional hydra cranes mainly being hired by the retail customers.
Relating to other industry segments, the demand for Hydra cranes has substantially reduced in granite mining and ship breaking. Erstwhile, these two segments alone had been consuming more than 30 per cent of pick-and-carry cranes.
Traditionally, the investment of Rs 12-16 lakh for the conventional Hydra cranes has been the most attractive proposition. The daily rates realised are in the range of Rs 750-1,000 per hour, while monthly hiring charges for 260 hours and one 12 hour shift of operation fetch around Rs 35,000 per month. The maximum long term hiring is restricted to six months extendable on mutual agreement. For two shift operation, Rs 10,000 towards the additional operator is payable. As a result, the return on investment (ROI) is economically viable.
For F15 class of cranes, now being preferred by all corporate and major project owners, the economics are not very favourable. To begin with, the purchase cost ranges at Rs 24-28 lakh. The average rental realisation is in the range of Rs 85,000 per month with single operator and Rs 1 lakh with two operators. Further, the mobilisation and de-mobilisation charges are negotiated by the customers to the barest minimum and in case the rental period is 6 months or more, the customer pays for only one way mobilisation. In light of this, many hirers are disinvesting in this business and are instead brokering for this equipment rental. Nilesh Kothari, Managing Director, Kothari Heavy Lifters, comments, ¨Owing to complete slowdown in the demand of conventional Hydra cranes and uneconomical investment in F15 class cranes, I have sold of my entire fleet of pick-and-carry cranes. I now only supply 360-degree slew hydraulic mobile cranes of various capacities. On the other hand, on the insistence of some important customers, I arrange a F15 crane through some local suppliers.¨
Jagpal Singh, a local hirer at Delhi says, ¨So far I could manage my business by supplying the conventional Hydra cranes. But since the market trend is for F15 class cranes, I have invested in the same but supply only to premium customers like DMRC who give reasonable rates and timely payments.¨
Increasing safety consciousness in the user segment is expected to drive the demand of F15 cranes. Presently, in light of slow infrastructure development, the supply exceeds the demand, thereby driving the rental rates down. However, as the pace gathers momentum, the supply versus demand situation will improve and result in better rate realisation. On the other hand, the industry expects the prolific use of conventional Hydra cranes to continue and they do perceive any threats as yet.
Hydra Safety Issues
For a 15 class crane, the average rental realisation is in the range of Rs 85,000 per month with single operator and Rs 1 lakh with two operators.