Alabama Port Authority inks deal to bring heavy-lift capability to Mobile

Jan 27, 2010

The Alabama State Port Authority has finalized a deal with Memphis-based Barnhart Crane & Rigging Co. that will bring a 400-ton barge-mounted crane to the port of Mobile in May, Jimmy Lyons, director, told board members during the regular monthly meeting on Tuesday.

Lyons said the crane is "totally unrelated" to the effort to lure an electric transformer plant to a 230-acre site near the Theodore Industrial Canal. A division of South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries, which is not associated with the auto plant in Montgomery, is reportedly considering Theodore and at least one other location in Georgia.

However, Lyons said, the crane could "certainly help" in that effort.

The authority has agreed to market the crane through press releases and possibly advertising, but there is no money earmarked for the project, Lyons said. Barnhart has not been guaranteed a minimum of work, but Lyons expects there to be demand for the service, which will be based at docks facilities along the Mobile River.

Heavy lift capability is now limited to 110 tons, and companies such as deep-sea exploration equipment manufacturer Aker Solutions must now hire cranes from companies based in New Orleans, Lyons said.

"To do a heavy lift would probably cost you well over $100,000 and maybe as much as $150,000, depending on the job," Lyons said. Having the Barnhart crane here could save users anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000, he said.

Local industries such as Star Shipping have asked the docks about bringing permanent heavy-lift capability to Mobile for years, he said.

Jeff Latture, Barnhart's vice president of sales and marketing in Mobile, said the company decided to bring the $10 million crane to Mobile because current and future business is strong.

"We expect new shippers of heavier cargo and current shippers of heavy cargo to use the service," Latture said. "Build it and they will come - that's what we hope."

The crane will have the ability to move large pieces of equipment such as transformers, commercial wind turbines, and other heavy cargo.

"I think it's going to present some economic development opportunities for us, not only in Mobile, but in the rest of the state," Lyons said. "We lost a big turbine project last year (a $325 million, 500-job Mitsubishi Power Systems plant that ended up choosing Savannah, Ga.) and one of the reasons was the lack of a heavy-lift crane."

Barnhart has had a presence in the Mobile area for about 10 years, with about 35 employees at offices in Fairhope and Irvington.

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