Condra has completed a 32-ton, 30-metre span container handling crane for Manganese Metal Company (MMC), the Mbombela-based metal refinery. The working element of a multi-component turnkey contract between these two companies, the purpose of the crane is to allow MMC to offload and load full containers from and onto either railway wagons or road transport trucks, allowing it to export product without interruption 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.  

Rival firms

The company 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 timeously.  

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, effective after-sales service and very low projected overall lifetime cost were among the reasons for the win.

Out in the open

Condra’s turnkey solution includes the crane itself, downshop conductor system, the design, supply and erection of the crane’s 43metre 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’s patented storm brakes to guard against movement caused by high winds.

Full length platform

Apart from 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 within the normal range for a crane of this very large size: the long travel will move at speeds of either 31 or 10,3 metres per minute, and the cross travel at 14 or 4,6 metres per minute. 

Eliminating ‘stepping’

An Optidrive variable-frequency drive supplied by Condra subsidiary iTek Drives will deliver tightly controlled and variable lifting speeds of up to 3 metres per minute on the hoist. Condra bought iTek Drives in October last year to secure supply of these components, used in many of its cranes to deliver precisely variable, smoothly changing motor speeds that eliminate ‘stepping’ while optimising energy usage.

During manufacture, Manganese Metal Company supplied Condra’s Germiston factory with unique and visually appealing paint specifications for the finish of its new crane in corporate colours. Girders and end-carriages are resplendent in MMC grey, the hoist in MMC amethyst, and the container handler in MMC yellow.

Demand for turnkey

Commenting on the order, Condra managing director Marc Kleiner says that there is growing demand for turnkey lifting solutions, “Customers sometimes want more than just crane manufacture and commissioning. 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 on December 5th, with the crane following in the second week of January 2023. Crews supplied by Condra completed commissioning during the same month.

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