The worst is over for construction as crane hire firms see orders jump by 10 per cent
Unemployed builders may well be looking back in envy at their 'Crane City' days, when there was so much building work around Dublin that cranes dominated every aspect of the city's skyline. However, there are signs that Crane City could be about to make a mini-comeback.
Some crane hire companies have seen orders jump by about a tenth over the last year – while others are snapping up cranes because they expect orders to pick up in the near future.
"There are a number of crane hire companies actively out buying cranes in anticipation of a boost in orders," said Mark Lang, a spokesman for the construction lobby group, the Construction Industry Federation.
Mr Lang added that over the last year, there had been a "modest improvement" in the number of orders for mobile cranes and tower cranes.
"There's been a general trend towards more tower cranes being erected," said Mr Lang.
"Crane hire companies are also taking on maintenance fitters [who install and repair cranes]. This reflects a modest improvement in the number of construction projects on the ground – or about to come on board. There's a general improvement in confidence as to where the construction industry is going."
Aidan Kelleher, managing director of East Cork Crane Hire, which has been in the crane hire business for almost 30 years, said it had seen orders for mobile cranes increase by about a tenth over the last year. Most of this demand is coming from the pharmaceutical, wind energy and agricultural industries, according to Mr Kelleher.
"Between the small farmer building new sheds and effluent tanks to the major co-ops expanding, the agricultural industry is busy," said Mr Kelleher.
"The wind industry is very reliant on cranes for the erection and maintenance of wind turbines – this industry is getting bigger all the time.
"The pharmaceutical industry has ongoing work all the time – and cranes are used for the general maintenance of pharma plants. General construction is nearly non-existent still, the exception being schools and hospitals. Cranes are being hired to build new schools and extensions to hospitals."
Pat Kavanagh, managing director of Kavanagh Crane Hire, a 40-year-old family business based in Wexford, said there had been "a slight pick-up" in crane hire orders over the last year.
"Things have picked up a little; our orders have probably gone up by about 10 per cent over the last year," said Mr Kavanagh.
Although the construction sector is still very much on its knees after the worst property crash in the history of the State, there is some evidence that it is starting to recover – albeit slowly.
Last July, there was a pick-up in new orders in the construction sector for the first time in 19 months, according to research from Ulster Bank.
Although activity in the sector is still down, the pace of decline has slowed, according to Ulster Bank.
"It feels like we're close to the bottoming out point and that the worst is over," said Simon Barry, chief economist with Ulster Bank.