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Twinkling like One Thousand and One Nights
It is where the sun comes up, looking from Germany at least, and twinkles – in the classic One Thousand and One Nights and at the end of the last millennium when Burj Al Arab, which cost 1.5 billion US dollars, drew international attention to itself in 1999. The 321 m hotel built on an artificial island marked the start of Dubai’s dazzling rise as one of the most popular cities in the world – and was also a spectacular job for the first Liebherr cranes delivered to the United Arab Emirates.
Delivery started in 1997, the year in which Hong Kong’s sovereignty was transferred to China. The Labour Party under Tony Blair forced a change of government after 18 years. And Madeleine Albright became Secretary of State in the USA. So it was a long time ago. It is also a long time ago that the seven emirates on the Persian Gulf between Saudi Arabia and Oman were not among the most popular tourist destinations in the world. This has changed drastically, above all for Dubai, which today is also at the top of the international league in terms of financial transactions, real estate, infrastructure and trade and passenger numbers. Nothing appears to be impossible here.
At the time, when the developers decided to set new standards in architecture and luxury by building the Burj Al Arab Hotel and winning over the hearts of globetrotters, the Liebherr plant in Ehingen did not have an outlet of its own in the Emirates. “Nevertheless, we used four Liebherr mobile cranes with lifting capacities between 70 and 300 tonnes when we had to position a 65 tonne cross beam on the sailshaped building”, says Hilary Pinto, thinking back. He is the founder of the Al Faris Group and is now one of our largest global customers with 380 Liebherr cranes.
The first of many mobile cranes had been refurbished as a used crane during summer 1997 in Ehingen before it crossed the sea to the Persian Golf. It has been followed by around 670 more vehicles to date. Whilst the cranes arrive at the ports of Dubai or Abu Dhabi fully assembled, the sales and service team are located in the branch office opened in 2005 in Dubai’s free trade zone, Jebel Ali Free Zone. A total of 14 staff at Liebherr Middle East FZE are responsible for the cranes shipped from Ehingen and provide support for more than 50 customers in the seven Arab Emirates.
“30,000 hours of service and a service life of over 15 years are absolutely normal in this region”, says Holger Amann, who has been in charge of business for Liebherr in Dubai since 2007. “But the environmental conditions are extremely harsh here – during the summer the vehicles are exposed to temperatures of up to 50 degrees in the shade. Then there is the salt and sand in the air – and nevertheless the cranes are not simply replaced after four or five years as is normally the case in Europe, for example. Our engineers therefore have a full-time job here!”
Our customers expect competent service around the clock – and we provide it.
Amann grins as he talks. Full-time in these latitudes really does mean 24/7. Non-stop. Around the clock. “End of the working day, weekend, public holidays? Not here. You can phone service providers day and night and be sure that they will come out straight away”, says Amman.
In keeping with these unusual times, the locations are also often pretty extraordinary – lots of cranes are involved in bridge construction in the middle of the desert or on islands extracting oil or hoisting large yachts into the sea.
The Al Faris Group, a family-run business founded in 1992 with a 3,300-strong workforce at ten sites in and outside the UAE has also been involved in the special projects, and continues to be involved in them. Several cranes, including the largest Liebherr cranes in Dubai, were recently in action at the site of the EXPO 2020, which has been postponed until 2021 – the LTM 11200-9.1, for example, the most powerful mobile telescopic crane in the world.
There is now also a Liebherr customer just one kilometer away – crane rental contractor Sveakran is also based in the free trade zone and recently expanded its fleet with two new mobile cranes. The third is already on its way, the fourth has been ordered. Omran, Sveakran’s parent company, which has been successfully renting Liebherr tower cranes for years, has had good experience with “Made in Germany” machines and people. Salah Mohamed, Managing Partner of the company, explains: “The staff are very committed, the technology is state of the art and spare parts are delivered quickly. Here in Dubai we particularly appreciate the German virtues of punctuality, quality and reliability.”
Personal relationships with customers in the UAE, which is a former British and Portuguese colony and did not win its independence until 1971, are just as important as everywhere else in the world: “Working with customers is based on a relationship of deep trust”, says Holger Amann. The cultural and ethnic diversity in the country certainly makes the job an interesting challenge. The country has a population of around 10 million and some of them earned a great deal of money at the start of this millennium. “Between 2008 and 2011, the international financial and debt crisis meant that much of the activity in the UAE came to a halt. Then we had another major upturn until lots of things were made more difficult again due to the Corona virus. Fewer tourists, a falling oil price and less international freight traffic are typical for the year 2020, and of course this has directly affected the UAE.”
However, the cities within the UAE are still places that never sleep. And if somebody does fall asleep? They might miss a Liebherr crane hoisting a whale shark out of the aquarium into the open sea. This is what happened a few years ago at Atlantis The Palm, the well-known luxury hotel on the largest artificial island in the world, the Palm Jumeirah. That did not even feature in the collections of One Thousand and One Nights, which date from 250 years AD. But it would have fitted perfectly in the Orient, or as Holger Amann calls it: “Disney Land for adults”.
This article was published in the UpLoad magazine 01 | 2021.