The following summarizes an interview that Canadian Sailings recently conducted with Steven Sewerniuk, Maritime Cranes Sales Manager, Liebherr Canada Ltd.

Would you please describe the history of the company?

The company was founded in 1949 by Dr. Hans Liebherr in Kirchdorf, Germany. Hans Liebherr recognized the need for new tools and machinery for the re-construction of post-war Germany. In 1949, working alongside engineers and tradesmen, he developed the first mobile tower crane. In the 1950s, he started making hobbing machines in order to manufacture gear wheels which were required to produce cranes. To improve on the poor power-to-weight ratio of existing cable excavators, Hans Liebherr developed the first hydraulic excavator in Europe – the L300. This powerful machine was four times lighter than conventional cable excavators, and production was commenced in 1954.

In the 1950s, Liebherr started to expand into the British and North American markets and built a production facility in Killarney, Ireland. This facility initially manufactured tower cranes, but later expanded into container cranes, shipyard cranes and speciality cranes.

Although the company’s mobile, easy-to-assemble and affordable tower crane was the foundation on which it has flourished, Liebherr is not only one of the world’s leading manufacturers of construction machinery but is also an acknowledged supplier of technically innovative user-oriented products and services in numerous other fields.

Would you please tell us about your company’s corporate structure, and about the diversity of its operations and products?

The holding company is Liebherr-International AG, based in Bulle (Switzerland), and is entirely owned by members of the Liebherr family, with active shareholders of the Liebherr family forming its governing board. Liebherr is organized into eleven product divisions, which operate autonomously, namely:

Aerospace & Transportation systems


Concrete technology

Domestic appliances


Hotels (six first-class hotels in Austria, Ireland and Germany)

Machine tools and automation systems

Maritime Cranes


Mobile cranes

Tower cranes

Liebherr is a global company operating more than 130 companies, and employing approximately 41,000 employees. In 2013, global revenues were close to $9 billion Euros.

What kind of equipment do you make and sell for port terminal operators?

Products for port terminals are referred to as Port Equipment, and all of these products are manufactured in Europe. The Liebherr Port Equipment product portfolio offers a perfectly balanced range of innovative cargo handling solutions, which includes state-of-the-art mobile harbour cranes, ship-to-shore cranes, fixed and rail-mounted cargo cranes, rail-mounted stacking cranes, rubber tire gantry cranes, straddle carriers, reachstackers, dockyard cranes, crawler cranes, hydraulic excavators, loaders and crawlers.

Do you customize designs and/or services for your clients in that sector?

Every crane project is carefully planned by our engineers to account for the specific structural conditions at the client’s port. In-depth consultations are an essential part of each project in order to evaluate all potential options/solutions for our customer’s particular needs, with our cranes customized to meet these requirements. Some of these custom modifications might include adding additional wheel sets or different supporting pads to reduce quay loading or to meet specific pier requirements or configurations. The cranes can also be configured specifically for the type or types of operations they will be performing. As different customers have different requirements, Liebherr’s tailor-made service ensures that all needs are met. This includes individual commissioning, inspection programs, preventive maintenance programs, upgrades as well as full service contracts.

How big or important is that market for your company?

The market served by our Port Equipment Division across Canada is a very important market for us, and is growing rapidly. With customers realizing the benefits of high quality manufacturing, we have been able to grow market share across the country along with winning some key projects over the past few years. Canada is now home to the first rail-mounted mobile harbour crane installed in North America. This LPS 420 crane consists of a mobile harbour crane installed on the space-saving undercarriage of a gantry crane and primarily handles bulk, heavy lift and project cargo, with the potential to perform other types of operations including handling of containers, scrap, etc… Canada is also home of the largest mobile harbour crane in North America, the LHM 600. Delivered and commissioned in 2014, this crane has the ability to lift 144-tonnes on the ropes, up to 20 meters outreach. This crane is also capable of handling over 1500-tonnes per hour in bulk operation and can efficiently handle containers up to a Capesize vessel.

How many terminal clients do you have, and where are they largely located? 

Traditionally, Europe (including Russia) is by far the largest region for the flexible mobile harbour crane solution, followed by Africa and Middle East. In terms of individual countries, India, Russia and Spain are presently the largest market for mobile harbour cranes. Liebherr has now delivered well over 1,200 mobile harbour cranes to nearly 100 terminals worldwide.

What about Canada?  Would you tell us a bit about your operations here? 

Liebherr Canada Ltd. was incorporated in 1973, and has many sales & service centers located across the country, with its headquarters in Burlington, Ontario. These centers are responsible for providing expertise and support to our Port Equipment, Mining, Earth Moving, Mobile & Crawler Cranes, Foundation Equipment and many other product groups across Canada. For Port Equipment products, we have main locations in St-John’s (NL), Moncton (NB), Sept-Iles (QC), Laval (QC), Burlington (ON) and Richmond (BC).

Our Port Equipment customers are located all over Canada including the Maritimes, along the St-Lawrence, into the Great Lakes and on the West Coast. With duties ranging from handling steel plate for shipbuilding, to container and bulk handling, to project cargo and heavy lift, we have a wide variety of products that service all of our customers’ needs at the port.

Is Canada a big market for Liebherr? How competitive is the market here compared to other countries or regions? 

Canada has been a growing market for us with a strong foundation in many other product groups including: Offshore Cranes, Mobile Cranes, Earth Moving Equipment, Mining, Aerospace and many more. The Port Equipment division in Canada is becoming more and more important with 2014 being the strongest year ever, having delivered the LPS 420 and LHM 600 machines. With several machines expected to be delivered in 2015, we’re looking at another strong year for Canada.

Do you have any products or services (i.e. support network) that give you a competitive advantage?

The well-structured Liebherr service network ensures quick response times worldwide. With commonality of parts across multiple product groups having been among the design objectives, low cost and rapid availability of spare parts, together with quality service, when required, has enabled Liebherr to turn after-sale service into a key competitive feature.

Liebherr has a worldwide team for Port Equipment of more than 600 experienced, multi-skilled and factory-trained service engineers which are based in over 50 service centers worldwide. With service engineers receiving extensive training at the factories in Europe prior to returning to their respective service centers, our customers can be certain that they will receive the best possible service.

Liebherr has more than 40 years of experience in the competitive mobile harbour crane sector. Right from the beginning, when Liebherr entered the market in 1974, the company has put the focus on quality, innovation and performance. Today, Liebherr is the clear market leader in mobile harbour cranes with a 2014 market share in the range of 70 per cent.

Liebherr Maritime Cranes continuously works on innovations in close cooperation with customers, industry experts and engineers. As an example of innovation in the market, in 2014, Liebherr introduced SmartGrip®. This unique technology operates as an intelligent system which optimizes grab filling rates in a self-learning manner. SmartGrip provides a number of valuable advantages including reduced operator stress, higher overall performance and zero overloads.


Another innovative technology for cranes is the hydraulic hybrid drive system, Pactronic®. By adding a hydraulic accumulator as a secondary energy source instead of a larger or additional engine, Pactronic® is regenerating the reverse power while lowering the load. The stored energy is transferred back to the system when the crane requires peak power during hoisting. Pactronic® increases handling performance while reducing fuel consumption in the range of 30 per cent.


Does Liebherr have any exciting new or planned products or initiatives that it hopes to introduce in 2015?

Liebherr’s comprehensive maritime portfolio, which also includes ship and offshore cranes, is constantly updated according to the needs of our customers worldwide. We continuously analyze changing needs and trends in order to adapt our product and technology portfolio, when needed, such as the SmartGrip® and Pactronic® systems mentioned above.