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Luffing guy

Paul King, director of Dubai-based Gulf Erectors talks to us about concerns regarding modernisation in the tower crane industry.

Paul King, director of Dubai-based Gulf Erectors.
Paul King, director of Dubai-based Gulf Erectors.

Paul King, director of Dubai-based Gulf Erectors talks to us about concerns regarding modernisation in the tower crane industry.

With the forest of tower cranes getting thicker by the day throughout the UAE, the shortage of qualified engineers to put them up is ever more evident. Barely a week goes by without an accident or a collapse making it into the news.

Happily, several new firms specialising in such things have been set up in the Emirates over the last few years. One of them is Gulf Erectors, a company that brings many years of crane experience in from Europe.

However, Operations Director Paul King has some grave concerns about the towers in the region.

"My main concern that you have tower cranes that can't 360 slew. The wind is getting stronger and stronger in Dubai so that means the drivers have to leave the brakes on overnight, which is dangerous and can topple the crane over" he said.

The problem is compounded by some on-site engineers using whatever comes to hand to clamp the framework in place.

"Just the way they are tied to buildings, they are not using proper manufacturers ties to buildings and there engineers are saying 'this bit of steel will do it,' and it is not as the manufacturer recommended."

This hurried approach to engineering is, in King's eyes, contributing to the number of failures seen recently.

"You've got cranes collapsing all the time and people getting hurt. Only recently we were working at a job site in Sharjah and [on another site] at the back of us a tower crane fell right over."

He explained that one pin was missing from the luffing jib and this in turn caused the bottom pin to come out, resulting in failure. King is clear about why this occurred.

"It was lack of maintenance, There is a lot of it around here. There aren't enough people qualified, though it is probably wrong to say 'not qualified' but they are not qualified in the right aspects."

He went on to explain that the correct courses and qualifications are key to modernisation. "Training is a big issue out here. There is no training body as such for erecting, dismantling or even operating."


The quality of the steelwork that makes up a crane needs looking at too, particularly among some smaller or independent contractors according to King.

"You see a 1967 tower crane up full height lifting maximum weights. It should have non-destructive testing after fifteen years There is no way in the world that a forty year old crane should be lifting maximum weight at maximum height" he said.

"Most manufacturers will stipulate ten or fifteen years before that the crane will be non-destructive tested. Ten percent of the tower should be non-destructive tested. And this is the British standard that should be followed."

To me it is ridiculous putting up a sixty-year old crane that hasn't had any testing since the day it was made."

He added "It's up 60-70, 120 metres high, lifting maximum weight (parked with the brake on in a high wind) with some bit of RSJ across holding the thing together with a home made collar, where it should be using the manufacturers collar."

"Anybody can make something, providing it is done by an engineering company and there is a test weight put on it."

He agreed that there is a shortage of good quality equipment. "There is a lack of cranes. We're in talks with a Chinese company, which is a state run firm. We're hopefully getting its franchise over here. We've been up their cranes and I have inspected them and they are good quality so we'll try and market them."

Despite the concerns, he is upbeat about the local market wanting the services from a company such as his.

"We do everything the safest way and using my knowledge to help other people. We do independent inspections.­ A company could call us up and say they have a crane, I'll go out and inspect it and I'll give them a non-biased report on that crane."

"It's not a legally binding document but it is a report from someone who has been in the game twenty-odd years."

Finally, he adds that issues that affect the race to modernise are by no means exclusive to the UAE, saying "It's the sorts of things that happen all over the world... But at the moment I'm in Dubai."

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