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Cape Town crane manufacturer wins provincial orders

A steadily increasing order intake from general industry and consulting engineers has led BB Cranes of Cape Town to step up production to meet demand.

The upgrading of water and wastewater treatment plants in the Western and Eastern Cape is providing much of the additional business. Cranes and hoists are key to these plants, where they are installed as part of the civil works to lift and position pumps, electric motors and other machinery during construction, after which they serve in a service and maintenance role throughout the plants’ working lives.

BB Cranes has supplied most of the consulting firms overseeing upgrades and expansion of the Western Cape’s water treatment reticulation, including the associated pump stations.

“The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront’s seawater desalination plant is currently our most visible involvement,” said BB senior sales executive Stephen Brink Jnr. “We installed a 3,2 ton single-girder overhead crane there mid-September, also four monorail hoists with associated structures.”

Brink explained that design and supply of the hoists was carried out by Condra, BB Cranes’ parent company in Johannesburg, with BB Cranes itself undertaking girder manufacture, crane assembly, delivery to site, installation and commissioning. BB will also supply local service support.

The seawater desalination plant at the V&A Waterfront is a privately owned project under construction by Proxa Water, a specialist water treatment company contracted to deliver a reliable supply of potable water to the precinct, replacing dependency on city dams which have in recent years been threatened by drought. The waterfront is a popular Cape Town attraction; visitor flow there is accelerating as tourism recovers from the stumble caused by Covid-19.

Proxa Water’s order on BB Cranes is the company’s third, following BB’s supply of similar equipment to several Proxa projects outside South Africa. Proxa Water has offices throughout Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Australia, delivering turnkey water services to the regions’ mining, petrochemical, food and beverage, and municipal sectors.

Brink Jnr said that a bigger order for the company in terms of unit numbers was one for eight cranes and hoists recently placed by an unnamed customer, to be installed at a wastewater treatment works in the Eastern Cape. These comprise a mix of overhead machines of various designs, a jib crane, and several monorail hoists with supporting structures.

BB Cranes recently delivered two other 5 ton monorail hoists to the same customer, for new MyCiTi bus depots servicing Mitchells Plain, Khayelitsha, Claremont and Wynberg. 

It is not only Cape Town’s consulting engineers who are busy. Shipbuilders, too, have placed orders on BB Cranes to manage growing demand. Two Oceans Marine, a manufacturer of high-end custom catamarans, is building a new factory and equipping it with two identical double-girder overhead travelling cranes to lift and position boat engines and other components, as well as the completed vessels themselves.

These cranes will be fitted with dual 2,5 ton hoists from Condra’s compact SH Series. Again, overall design and the supply of the hoist units was carried out by Condra, with BB executing girder manufacture and assembly.

Cape Town is home to two other luxury catamaran manufacturers, both of which also have BB cranes installed in their factories. BB is keeping a close watch on an anticipated requirement for a very large machine, an 80 ton giant overhead crane needed for construction of an ultra-large catamaran with a price tag approaching R200-million, expected to be ordered soon. If secured, this will be BB’s biggest ever crane installation.

Rivergate-based BB Cranes additionally reports smaller orders that include two single-girder overhead machines supplied to a manufacturer of vehicle trailers.

Brink Jnr said that the Condra subsidiary continues to benefit from reorganisation of its factory to facilitate smoother production and an easier compliance with the group’s strict ISO 9000 manufacturing standard. Semi-automated welding has recently been introduced.

“We are sharpening our competitive edge,” said Brink. “Our lead times are shorter – these days considerably less than those of our competitors – and our service is better because of spares holdings. Customers know their machines will be promptly serviced and the guarantees honoured.”

Brink Jnr said that BB Cranes’ work to increase company competitiveness is ongoing.

“For us, the pay-off is the steadily increasing number of customers placing repeat orders in spite of an influx of cheap imported product from rival firms in Gauteng. One customer was this year compelled to order a replacement crane from us because of the failure of a cheaper machine,” he noted.

“That failure cost the customer downtime and lost production because of a lack of spares availability. Condra spare parts are always in stock. Pay a little bit extra at the start of things, and there will always be payback in the medium term.”

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