Suppliers are selling lower quality parts through websites

Crane collapses could occur because Chinese suppliers of counterfeit parts are targeting the UK market, according to a leading manufacturing firm.

Jean-Pierre Zaffiro, global product director of lifting equipment manufacturer Manitowoc, said that Chinese companies were manufacturing fake parts supposedly made by respected firms, when in fact they were copies of much lower quality.

“Generally you get what you pay for,” said Zaffiro. “Suppliers are targeting the UK market through websites. Crane parts need to be resilient as jerking can occur. High-grade steel is more ductile [stretchable] in cold climates.

“However, counterfeiters do not guarantee what steel grade they use as they buy it from questionable suppliers. Cost savings are small but accidents are expensive,” he warned.

This comes after counterfeit crane components have been blamed for a number of tower crane collapses in Asia. Counterfeiters copy the dimensions of crane parts and manufacture them to a low standard with poor quality steel.

While counterfeit crane parts have yet seriously to impact the UK market, other types of counterfeit parts have been discovered. In 2009, the Health and Safety Executive issued a warning following the discovery of counterfeit Crosby shackles, used on rigging equipment. Counterfeit crane parts were also discovered on display at the Bauma International Trade Fair in 2007.

Günther Hardock, managing director of German manufacturing group Liebherr, believes the internet could open up the European market to Chinese crane-part manufacturers.

“These faulty parts are widely available across the internet,” said Hardock. “Parts are known to have been sold to European customers. It is not just an Asian problem anymore, it is a global problem.”   

Liliana Alexa of the Battersea Crane Disaster Action Group said there needed to be greater awareness in the UK of the dangers of low-quality crane parts: “These parts could slowly infiltrate the market, compromising safety”.