November 5 - Over 270 delegates attended the two-day World Crane & Transport Summit (WCTS) at the NH Grand Krasnapolsky Hotel in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Organised by KHL Group, the conference kicked off yesterday morning with an interesting keynote address from Mammoet ceo Jan Kleijn, who suggested that the technological changes occurring in our world may have a dramatic effect on the crane and specialised transport industry's business if the sector does not work hard to embrace innovation itself.

"The days of relentless economic growth are over," he commented, adding that technology and smart thinking are now reshaping the world economy. He considered whether the industry might see the introduction of an Uber or Airbnb service for the heavy lifting and transport market, and what effect this might have on companies' operations.

"Imagine if somebody started an Uber service for cranes and specialised transport - how would that affect us and our customers? We are a conservative industry; we like to own our own equipment; but is this the right attitude for the future?" 

Kleijn also commented on the possible disruption that innovations like 3D printing could cause, questioning the ramifications for sector if such technology began being used to build bridges or plant equipment, taking away the need for lifting and transport equipment.

"Are we driving change or does change happen to us?" he asked the audience.

After this thought-provoking start to the conference, the rest of the event focused mainly on the safety aspects of the industry and how accidents can be avoided, with the use of proper planning, staff training and working together.

Ton Raemakers, managing director of Euro-Rigging, urged delegates to "wake-up" to the reality of accidents in the crane and transport industry, and encouraged the audience to help prevent further fatal incidents by adopting a "holistic joint industry approach". 

Building on this concept, president of the European Association of Abnormal Road Transport and Mobile Cranes (ESTA) and managing director of UK-based Collett Transport, David Collett, delivered an update on the association's working group to provide new guidelines for the use and regulation of self-propelled modular trailers (SPMT) across Europe.

ESTA secretary and managing director of Wagenborg Nedlift, Ton Klijn, also brought delegates up to speed on the progress of another of ESTA's plans - to implement a European Crane Operator License (ECOL). He informed that the association has received a subsidy from the EU for the scheme and the first draft of learning outcomes has been completed; but confirmed that it is unlikely anything will be in place for another three years.

WCTS also paid great attention to the wind energy industry and the growing need for safety measures in the lifting of heavier and larger turbine components at ever-increasing heights.

A round-table - comprising Norbert van Schaik, project specialist transport at Siemens Wind Power; Declan Corrigan, technical manager of Windhoist; and Hans-Dieter Willim, general manager of design at Liebherr-Werk Ehingen - contemplated a number of trends associated with the lifting and installation of wind turbines, as well as the cranes that are used in such jobs, and examined the developments that will have to be made in order to cope with the growth in this line of work.

A stimulating presentation from Steven Tan and Vincent Teo of Bok Seng Logistics in Singapore offered an insight into the Southeast Asian side of the heavy transport business, where a staggering 3,000 axle lines of modular trailers are currently available in the region, mostly in Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.

Further discussions centred on the advantages and disadvantages of using synthetic ropes, compared with traditional steel wire ropes and hybrid versions; while a round-table consisting of three young industry employees highlighted the need for greater awareness of the job prospects that the crane and specialised transport sector can provide young people; and a speech on the role of private equity in the acquisition of crane rental companies provided further food for thought.