Sunderland crane firm expands, securing 200 jobs

Ralph Saelzer, managing director of the Liebherr Sunderland plant (left) and Councillor Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council.

Ralph Saelzer, managing director of the Liebherr Sunderland plant (left) and Councillor Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council.

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A CRANE manufacturer is growing as it gears up to meet worldwide demand.

Liebherr is extending its Wearside site in a move which will help safeguard 200 jobs.

Councillor Paul Watson, Leader of Sunderland City Council (left) and Ralph Saelzer, managing director of the Liebherr Sunderland plant.

Councillor Paul Watson, Leader of Sunderland City Council (left) and Ralph Saelzer, managing director of the Liebherr Sunderland plant.

The expansion will allow Liebherr to build its maritime cranes in advance of orders being received, slashing waiting times for customers.

The company, which recently won a major order to build North Sea offshore cranes for energy and utilities giant GDF Suez, will push on with the extension in the near future, after planning approval from Sunderland City Council.

Liebherr, which supplies offshore and ship cranes around the world, has seen significant growth in demand and is one of the region’s major exporters, with overseas orders accounting for around 90 per cent of its business.

Plant managing director Ralph Saelzer said the new extension would allow the firm to store crucial equipment so it could stay ahead of demand.

He said: “Through being able to manufacture cranes off the shelf, we can cut down on waiting times for potential clients and offer a very short delivery time.

“It gives us an advantage to be able to say we have cranes there ready, instead of saying they will have to wait a long time – sometimes it can be many months.

“We have been hit by the global downturn along with everyone else, but thankfully our workload has always remained at a level where we can sustain our operation.

“We hope that building these cranes ahead of orders being received will allow us to place ourselves in a very strong position going forward.”

Liebherr’s Sunderland plant has grown steadily since opening in the 1980s. Initially based in the former Wear Dock shipyard, it expanded into the neighbouring Deptford yard in the late 1990s. The plant is part of the Swiss-based Liebherr Group, which employs more than 35,000 people in 120 countries.

City council leader Coun Paul Watson aid: “Liebherr is a company of huge importance, both as a local employer and an international supplier and exporter, and we are very pleased to have been able to support them in this latest expansion.

“Our business development team has worked closely with Liebherr for a number of years and it is great to see the company continue to develop and grow its presence around the world. For a city with the long maritime and crane-making heritage of Sunderland, we are immensely proud to have a company such as Liebherr here.”

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