The purpose of the crane is to enable MMC to offload and load full containers from and onto either railway wagons or road transport trucks, allowing it to export product using multiple transport options.

MMC produces selenium-free manganese metal used in the production of aluminium beverage cans, certain types of special steels, chemicals, welding consumables and lithium-based rechargeable batteries. MMC exports its product in various forms: flakes, powders and briquettes, with more than 90% of the refinery’s output being exported to 20 different countries across the globe. MMC has plans to grow its participation in the lithium-based battery market, especially for electric vehicle production, hence the need for increased flexibility of export container handling. Reliable logistics and flexible export options are key requirements to ensure MMC’s customers receive product in a timely fashion.

Condra won the contract for MMC’s container crane after competing against rival firms in a formal tender process. A turnkey proposal, short lead time, after-sales service and a low projected overall lifetime cost were among the reasons for the win.

Condra’s turnkey solution includes the crane itself, down shop conductor system, the design, supply and erection of the crane’s 43m free-standing gantry, and calculations for foundations laid by an independent civils contractor.

The 32-ton double-girder electric overhead travelling crane will be used in the open. It features weather covers on all motors, anti-derailment brackets, and Condra storm brakes to guard against movement caused by high winds.

Besides the removable container handler, there is a full-length platform with lifeline along one girder, a floodlight to illuminate the lifting area, a motion warning light and siren, and a cable reeling drum for future upgrade to full crane automation.

Control is by radio remote with pendant back-up. Speeds are said to be within the normal range for a crane of this size: the long travel will move at speeds of either 31m/min or 10.3m/min, and the cross travel at 14m/min or 4.6m/min. An Optidrive variable-frequency drive supplied by Condra subsidiary iTek Drives will deliver variable lifting speeds of up to 3m/min on the hoist.

During manufacture, MMC supplied Condra’s Germiston, Gauteng, factory with corporate colours paint specifications for the finish of its new crane.

Commenting on the order, Condra managing director, Marc Kleiner said that there is growing demand for turnkey lifting solutions.

“Customers sometimes want more than just crane manufacture and commissioning,” he said. “For example, a dump truck facility in the Northern Cape recently required us to work closely with both the architect and the structural engineer so that the crane, gantry and factory could be melded into a single, optimally cohesive operating platform at minimised cost. This required considerably more than straightforward design and manufacture.”

MMC’s gantry was delivered in early December, with the crane to follow in the second week of January 2023. Crews supplied by Condra will complete commissioning during the same month.