For me, the past 12 months will be memorable for the heated exchanges in the remote control sector. Yes, there’s been some interesting news elsewhere (as we’ll come to) but nowhere else have sparks flown in quite the same way.

It all started at the turn of the year…

Following the publication of letters on this site addressing the problem of so-called substandard remote controls in the crane market, even the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has used Hoist as a place to preach.

Now, it’s important to keep in mind that no conclusive proof has been given in support of these claims, neither at individuals, the companies they represent or the products they supply and/or manufacture. In fact, many of them have been deeply bemused and upset by the accusations.

I suppose that’s what has made this so interesting to follow. Put simply, on the one hand, we’ve got established remote control firms and, on the other, we’ve got the new kids on the block.

The HSE is still looking into this matter and is in regular communication with me. In fact, I hope to set up a meeting with an inspector and another representative early next year. I’ll believe it when I see it but I’ll keep you updated.

The end goal for me is to present the industry with clear and concise indications of the quality and, moreover, safety of the remote controls systems which they install and use on their equipment. Whether it’s crane builders or industrial end users, there’s too much ambiguity and confusion. And remote control firms themselves are probably responsible for this.

For example, are remote controls manufactured outside the EU safe to use here? At the moment, those that buy and sell them say yes, while everyone else says no. What’s an end user supposed to do?

I hope I can answer these questions during the next 12 months.

Of course, some reckon it’s all a storm in a tea cup. “I have been in the business of selling and installing overhead crane radio systems for 30 years,” says Richard Wehrmeister, of Advanced Overhead Crane, Texas, US. “I have yet to see a death or injury attributed to the failure of a radio system. Most often, radio systems are installed to provide a greater degree of safety versus using a push-button operated crane.”

On 17th May 2007 I celebrated one year as editor of Hoist. At the time of my appointment, I likened my ambition to that of Heinz-Helmut Kempkes, who said in reflection on his two-year term as president of the Fédération Européene de la Manutention (FEM), which concluded later that year: “The main intention was to bring together the industry with the same, strong interest.”

Nothing has changed.

Bright start

For many, the year started in Chicago, where the Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA) announced record visitor numbers at ProMat 2007 (January 8-11). Attendance grew 3% to over 35,000. The show featured 736 exhibitors (Hoist was among them), a 12% growth over ProMat 2005. Its size was 300,000 net sq ft.

MHIA CEO John Nofsinger said: “Visitors and exhibitors agree that ProMat 2007 was a tremendous success for them. Attendees came not just looking for supply chain solutions, but ready to buy and implement them.” He added: “Exhibitors came armed with their best solutions the industry has to offer.”

A month later, Hoist teamed up with sister title Cranes Today to stage the Middle East Cranes conference, held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), attracting 170 people.

The event brought together for the first time crane users and owners, manufacturers and dealers, construction contractors and government safety bodies. Delegates came from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, Europe, the US and Asia.

(By the way, we’re staging the event again in January).

We also staged the sixth Crane Safety conference at London’s Grange City hotel on 4-5 June. A late presentation (and, in my opinion, the best) was an exploration of the use of overhead cranes to dismantle the Chernobyl, Ukraine nuclear power station. It’s a presentation I still hope to bring to the editorial pages when they guys over there get clearance for me to do so.

Under the year’s theme of power and energy, other speakers included Havator president Erkki Hanhirova about the huge Norwegian Snow White project, Bechtel rigging manager Keith Anderson, UK power generation firm RWE npower safety manager Mike Rock, Mammoet safety manager Bryan Cronie, and others.

Meanwhile, somewhere underground the Franco-Swiss border, CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research), the world’s largest particle physics centre, lowered the heaviest piece of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) particle detector into the experiment’s cavern, 100m underground in the spring.

Using a huge gantry crane, custom-built by the Vorspann System Losinger Group, the pre-assembled central piece, containing the magnet and weighing as much as five jumbo jets (1,920t), was gently lowered into place. The entire process took about 10 hours to complete.

Hoist launched a new rigging advice column in its April issue. The column, written by KOLO Hoisting and Rigging Handbook co-authors Judy Mellott and Lisa Olver, started with the first installment of a two-part guide to bridle applications.

“We want to bring awareness to the industry for the need to have standards that are applicable worldwide,” says Mellott. Readers are invited to pose questions and share concerns with our columnists.

On site, one job in particular sticks in my mind, where a staggering 64 3t capacity chainfalls were used simultaneously to lift a FCCU (fluidized cat cracking unit) air grid during a maintenance project at Sunoco Refinery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US.

Another one was at Chinese shipyard Yantai Raffles, which finished erecting a giant gantry crane in Yantai, Shandong Province.

The Tai Sun crane, named after a mountain in the province, is 122m (400ft) high and 130m (426ft) long and has two 4,800t deadweight lifting beams, each with a lifting capacity of 10,000t (22m lbs).


On the business side, CMCO redeemed the remaining $22.1 million of its outstanding 10% senior secured notes due 2010 using available cash. As Hoist reported, CMCO believes that its stronger balance sheet provides the financial flexibility to make strategic bolt-on acquisitions “that will accelerate international market penetration and complement existing product breadth in the US.”

A year wouldn’t be complete if fellow giant Konecranes didn’t acquire more assets and, true to form, it notably snapped up, among others, Finnish-based container handling software specialist Savcor One Oy. The company, which is part of Savcor Group, is based in Vantaa and provides products and services to more than 20 leading container ports all over the world.

In a year of new products and services, Hoist launched an online buyers guide, the fastest place on the web to find products related to bridge cranes, jib cranes, chain hoists, wire rope hoists, blocks, end-of-line attachments, components and the installation and maintenance of factory lifting equipment.

The guide is the most effective way of advertising your products, services and knowledge to those people that can make a difference to your business, the buyers and specifiers.

Simply log on to, then use our Product Search to find full details on suppliers in the market, or use our Supplier Search if you know the company name. Alternatively browse our A to Z list.

Also new was this blog. As regular readers know, every week (even so often) I throw my thoughts online about interesting new products, stuff on this website, elsewhere on the web and on the factory floor.

Show time

I’ve spoken a bit about trade shows (pros and cons, traffic, regularity etc) this year, and certainly attended my fair share from China to the States, and new to the calendar is Deutsche Messe’s CeMAT India event, held at the new Bangalore International Exhibition Centre (BIEC), where it attracted 150 exhibitors occupying 3,000 sq m of floor space.

Around one third of all exhibitors came from India, with an additional 20% from Germany and the remainder coming mainly from Italy, Spain and the United States, it said.

Capping off another great year was Derrick Bailes’ 50th column in Hoist. After more than six years of insightful, thought-provoking articles, the Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA) chief executive spoke to me in an exclusive interview published in the December/January issue (67) about the association’s unique relationship with the publication, the state of the market, and looks forward to the next 50 columns.

And so do I. As I do the next 12 months and beyond.

Happy New Year!

Richard Howes, Editor