It is impossible to consider the modern industrial landscape without picturing giant overhead cranes moving cargo in shipyards or reaching for the heavens with materials needed for the erection of yet another skyscraper. In fact, wherever heavy lifting is required one of these obliging monsters will be found and to say that they are a driving force in the world’s economies is no exaggeration.
Imagine if a major exporter such as China did not have the equipment with which to move the mountain of containers leaving its shores, onto waiting ships? It would not only force their economy to a grinding halt it would have a similar devastating effect on the economies of its trading partners who rely on the cheap production or manufacturing offered in China. Cheaper they may be, but the jobs created by the huge demand for these cheaper services is also a major factor in China’s thriving economy. In trying to gage the volume of business deposited on China’s shores one only has to look at the origins of many items of clothing, shoes and handbags in any one person’s cupboard. Now try to calculate the immensity in number of practically every other household item that is manufactured in China. Add to this the skilled personnel required to keep operations running smoothly at the huge shipping and container ports in Shanghai and Singapore and China emerges the clear overall economic winner.
It is said that there are more overhead cranes currently in operation in Dubai than anywhere else on the planet as they keep adding to their already very impressive number of luxury hotels. Home to Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, Dubai would hold no such pre-eminence without these industrial giants. Although it turned out to be an economic disaster, partly because of the financial crisis of 2007-2010 which coincided with its completion, its creation would not have been possible without the heavy lifting ability of cranes. One cannot blame industrial machinery for bad business decisions such as over-building. Yet, construction of Burj Khalifa certainly meant good business for the architects, engineers and various contractors employed to oversee its rise. With its oil-rich neighbours lending a helping hand, Dubai is sure to resume its status as a major player in the hospitality stakes and create the need for even more luxurious accommodation. It is still a playground for the rich and famous and a shopping Mecca for many travellers.
It is an interesting exercise in imagination to wonder what master builders like the Egyptians and Greeks would have accomplished had they the access to the type of machinery used in construction today. With their still limitless natural resources with which to sculpt more temples, palaces, stadiums, theatres and the like, who knows how much richer and awe-inspiring their legacies would have been. And, with shipping having been the main avenue of trade, how much faster would their economies have grown with the aid of cranes? It is only by imagining a world without overhead cranes that we can begin to appreciate just how much progress is owed to its inventor/s. Like the wheel, the crane has revolutionised our world and changed forever the face of our urban environment.
About the author: Harold Potter Ltd supply new and used overhead cranes, lifting equipment and chain hoists to the UK’s construction and manufacturing industries.