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PrimePort sets cranes flying

By Chris Hutching

Friday 28th February 2003

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Investment in new equipment is boosting productivity at PrimePort in Timaru where workers have set records for the average number of container movements per hour.

The rationale for the purchases was driven by PrimePort's coup last year in wresting the services of container line Maersk Sealand, representing about 10% of the container business of its northern neighbour, Lyttelton Port Co.

One of the main local clients using the service is Fonterra, which ships milk products from its nearby Clandeboye factory. Other PrimePort clients include Tasman Orient Line, a specialist breakbulk and container carrier to the Asian region.

Last month PrimePort bought two new mobile Liebherr harbour cranes, which helped it set a New Zealand and possibly a world record of an average 47 container movements an hour over a full ship visit, which was improved again in January to 49 an hour using the port's two existing Liebherr cranes.

The LHM 500 cranes are the most technologically advanced of a new generation of mobile harbour cranes being produced by German manufacturer Liebherr.

"We're targeting rates of over 50 movements per hour in good conditions once our operators are fully conversant with the new machines," PrimePort Timaru operations manager Keith Michel said. The cranes are an impressive sight, weighing in at 455 tonnes each with a total of 24 sets of axles and a capacity to lift 42 tonnes at a maximum reach of 51m.

The purchase of the new cranes is part of a $23 million development programme at the port in competition with its nearest protagonist ­ Lyttelton Port Co.

"This expansion is in response to increasing volumes of trade in the South Island driven by a buoyant regional economy and strong growth in the export sector," PrimePort Timaru chief executive Jeremy Boys said.

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