The Port of Montevideo has major equipment plans for the port’s container facilities with crane manufacturer Liebherr again set to be a major contributor.

Liebherr mobile cranes at work at the Port of Montevideo, Uruguay.
Liebherr mobile cranes at work at the Port of Montevideo, Uruguay.

The Port of Montevideo is listed as one of nine major Uruguayan ports among a total of fourteen in the country. Over the last two years, however, Montevideo has also positioned itself to become one of South America’s most active container ports. At the least, equipment acquisitions have the port poised to become one of the country’s most important import/export centers.
Located along the La Plata River at the southern tip of the country, Montevideo’s port facilities are protected by a coastal breakwater over 500’ in length and maintains anchorages with water depths from 23’ to 30’. Depths range from 30.8’ to just over 33’ at their container facility. Landside capabilities include a variety of terminals including Montecon, their major container facility. Both the port and their partner, terminal operator Kateon Natie, have demonstrated an aggressive style. The partnership has successfully acquired a $20 million loan to modernize their container facilities including investing in new dockside equipment that will dramatically increase capabilities.

Montevideo Port Plans

Although classified as a medium size port by many standards, Montevideo has aspirations of maintaining continuing growth in foreign trade to become a major international port of call in South America. To date, they have posted a steady annual increase of approximately 14% per year. The goals of the port also include increases in facility and operating efficiencies, which port officials feel will lower the overall costs associated with vessel and cargo handling for its customers, attracting new business.

While this may sound like the promotional materials used by hundreds of ports around the world, Montevideo stands out in their region and has accomplished many of these goals. The port’s major container handling facility, Montecon, is owned by Kateon Natie, a 162-year old international logistics service provider and port operator with facilities in 28 countries on five continents. Founded in Antwerp, Belgium in 1854, Kateon Natie employs over 9,300 people worldwide.

The port, with the support of both Kateon Natie and the Montecon staff, has demonstrated a willingness to develop and maintain facilities, which will serve a variety of customers. With this objective in mind, they have been working closely with the mobile harbor crane division of Liebherr since 2001 to create an efficient, multi-crane dockside container handling capability. The first Liebherr mobile harbor crane, purchased in 2001, was a model LMH 400. Montecon now has two LMH 400’s, two LHM 500’s, three LHM 600’s and now the latest, two LHM 800’s which are now on the water, heading for Montevideo.

Juan Olascoaga, general manager at Montecon, is looking forward to the arrival of the newest cranes. “We are proud of being the first terminal worldwide which is going to operate the world’s largest mobile harbor cranes in container configuration,” he indicated recently. The two LHM 800s will offer the ability to handle larger container vessels. Crane operators will be positioned at a height of 40 meters. “No mobile harbor crane ever provided an eye level of more than 40 meters,” he continues, referring to the LHM 800’s cab position. In addition to the operator’s vantage point, the new cranes will provide an outreach of 64 meters, and the lift capacity to reach out over vessels with 22 containers across. “This forward looking investment underlines our pioneering role in South America,” continues Senor Olascoago. “Our customers will directly benefit from the outstanding capabilities of this new, versatile cargo handling solution.”

The Rostock Connection

The new cranes have recently begun their 13,000 mile voyage, sailing from Liebherr’s factory in Rostock, Germany. While Liebherr’s major corporate facilities are located in Austria, the company shifted mobile harbor crane manufacturing to Rostock to take advantage of the access to open shipping lanes. A similar strategy had been adopted for container cranes manufactured on the west coast of Ireland.

Luther Berthold, managing director of Liebherr’s newest facility, Liebherr-McClec Rostock indicated that, “The two LMH 800 Mobile Harbor Cranes, in their container handling mode, will be the newest additions to the Port of Montevideo’s existing fleet of Liebherr cranes.” The first of the LMH 800’s was ordered in 2015 and during a visit to discuss this new acquisition, the port ordered a second model 800 at that time. During a visit in 2012 by representatives of Montecon to discuss the progress of two LMH 600’s, the concept of a larger crane, eventually designated LMH 800, was discussed.

The capabilities of the Liebherr Mobile Harbor cranes purchased by the Port of Montevideo for the Montecon terminal have steadily increased, culminating with the most recent purchase of the LMH 800’s.

Overall, the total crane heights of the Liebherr cranes range from 33.5 meters for the LMH 400 to 57.5 meters for the new LMH 800. The crane operator’s eye level ranges from 24 meters in the LMH 400 to 40.4 meters for the LMH 800. The significant increases in the capability to handle increasingly larger vessels is also noteworthy, culminating with the LMH800’s ability to work vessels with 10 high deck stacks, reaching out to 22 containers wide. Another feature with the LMH800 will be the Port’s ability to handle twinlift containers. This crane, equipped with a 50 ton capacity twinlift spreader, will work up to an outreach of 58 meters. With a 60 ton twinlift spreader, the crane could handle a lift of 50 tons out to 50 meters.

Leopold Berthold, managing director of Liebherr, Rostock succinctly sums up the Montevideo/Rostock connection, indicating that it has steadily developed since 2001. He also added, “The Port has demonstrated their confidence in Liebherr mobile harbor cranes since that time.”

“The two LHM 800’s in container configuration,” he continues, “are a future-oriented addition to Montecon’s existing container handling fleet at Montevideo. Thanks to the existing Liebherr cranes at Montevideo, and the new 800’s, Montevideo will represent an attractive port of call for shipping lines with Super Post Panamax vessels. “