Konecranes Miami develops a niche market in the islands
The business of delivering electricity to Caribbean customers is always on the move, as political alliances shift and power providers evolve, dissolve and reform. Being on the move can also mean that Caribbean power plants are—literally—moved, as Jamaica’s unique barge-mounted power plants have the ability to relocate to better serve customers. There are few large power conglomerates in the Caribbean. Rather, it is a group of dedicated and hardworking smaller providers—some government backed, some privately owned—that keep the lights on. It is a challenge for many power companies to operate efficiently because the markets are so tiny on the smaller islands.
One consistent ally that has emerged for power providers in the Caribbean is Konecranes Miami branch. Crane equipment and service are critical elements in the ongoing effort to keep power plants operating. Konecranes supplies the lion’s share of the overhead cranes that Caribbean power companies use to maintain their generators—estimated at more than 90 percent market share by some sources.
“Konecranes provides support for Caribbean power producers either directly or as a subcontractor on jobs ranging from routine inspections to emergency call-outs,” says Rafael Ojeda, manager of Konecranes Miami branch. “We are ready to go wherever we are needed to support our customers and our equipment in this region, no matter how remote.”
A tight deadline on St. Eustatius
Konecranes customer Dean P. “Sparky” Brennan has been running trading companies in the Caribbean since 1975, originally based in St. Maarten. His latest venture, Spark International, relocated to Tampa, Florida in 2000. Spark is an export trading company, taking orders from clients in the Northeastern Caribbean that range from office copiers to rock crushing machines. Spark’s customers are large contractors, government entities and public utilities. Their supplier of choice for lifting equipment is Konecranes.
When Statia Utility Co. (formerly GEBE) on the Caribbean island of St. Eustatius (Statia) moved to expand their power plant in 2013, Spark International contacted Konecranes Miami branch for a quote to extend the crane runway and electrification system. The runway extension was the third time Konecranes had been called back to inspect, maintain and expand the crane at the facility, which had purchased a 5-ton Konecranes CXT overhead crane in 2005.
The recovering U.S. economy was renewing tourism and driving the need for more power generation capacity on the island. Statia’s governing body wanted to publicize and celebrate its plant expansion with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, which made for a tight time line.
According to Brennan, it was a straightforward project, but not one that some crane companies would consider because of its small size, difficult logistics and short deadline. Rafael Ojeda provided a firm quote in a matter of days. After the quote was accepted, all the required components were drop-shipped into Miami, flown to St. Maarten and sent then on to St. Eustatius by boat in 12x12x20-foot wooden crates. Two Konecranes technicians from Miami performed the install in a matter of 3-4 days, making Statia Utility’s deadline with time to spare.
“People in the islands are very receptive when somebody comes to help,” says Sparky Brennan. “Each time Konecranes went down there I received glowing reviews for the work they did and from the people they interfaced with. On Statia, the crane performs the lifting of heavy engines and components that had historically been done manually. It was inefficient and unsafe. So, it was very significant to create a safer environment, where component parts can be moved to a position where they can be worked on safely.”
Well-traveled CXT arrives in Jamaica
If the quick turnaround on Statia saved face for event organizers, Konecranes familiarity with shipping, logistics and customs saved the day for a Jamaica customer. West Kingston Power Partners operates a power station on Jamaica that sells electricity back to the grid run by Jamaica Public Service. When Naresh Potopsingh, mechanical engineer for the West Kingston Power Station was given the task of installing an overhead crane in their workshop, at the top of his equipment list was a Konecranes 5-ton CXT crane. The power station had already purchased two other CXTs, used to overhaul the station engines. This newest crane would be used to maintain heavy items coming in for repairs, lifting pumps, heads, turbochargers and also lifting charge air coolers into an ultrasonic wash fixture.
It should have been a simple purchase, but operating within the paradigm of an island nation can be a challenge. Peter Luciano, representative for Konecranes industrial crane products, fielded the order.
“The crane was a standard compact Konecranes CXT. But Jamaican voltage is different from the U.S. and required modifications. Also, the power station had no tools for the install. Everything we needed for a safe install had to be purchased and shipped with the crane, along with 240 feet of crane rail and 120 feet of power rail and all of the hardware. The crane, rails and equipment were inventoried and verified, crated and sent by ship,” Luciano related.
When the crane arrived, the Jamaican customs department, who had recently switched to using a new computerized system, had no specific computerized category for an overhead crane. They assumed it was a mobile crane and called it a vehicle, for which they did not have the correct paperwork. After Naresh Potopsingh was questioned about how many seats it had, he asked Luciano for help. After less than a week at sea but a month in customs, the CXT finally arrived at the site, where construction crews had already put the roof on the workshop building. But Konecranes managed to install and commission the unit in just four days.
“This was not a big order, but logistically it was a challenge to get the crane there undamaged, and of course to successfully install it on schedule with the roof in place,” said Luciano. “However, it’s a nice endorsement for the two previous CXT cranes that West Kingston purchased from Konecranes that they were willing to invest this much effort into getting another one.”
The customer was more than pleased. “We had two of Konecranes’ technicians here, and if I could give them medals I would,” said Potopsingh. “They worked hard, they worked accurately and they did everything right the first time. A third-world country with first-world products is more than a third-world country – another reason we work with Konecranes.”
A Nordic alliance in the Caribbean
Wärtsilä provides generators for most of the power industry in the Caribbean, doing business on 25 different islands throughout the region. Through its operation and maintenance contracts, Wärtsilä is responsible for the entire plant at many locations, which includes both the power generation equipment and the cranes needed to maintain it. Increasingly, Wärtsilä has relied on Konecranes to supply and service these cranes, developing a strong relationship with Konecranes Miami office.
“We are 100 percent committed to supporting Wärtsilä in the Caribbean market,” says Rafael Ojeda. “Most of the cranes that Wärtsilä has installed in their customer’s facilities are supplied by Konecranes, typically in the 2- to 5-ton range. Virtually all of the jobs we are asked to quote are small projects in remote locations, often with significant logistical challenges. Typically, our competitors won’t touch jobs like these, but we try to look at the bigger picture and take care of these customers, no matter where they are.”
Ojeda says Konecranes is able to utilize its global reach to handle jobs that local providers find daunting. Operating worldwide in the crane manufacturing and service business, Konecranes is a resource customers can count on for the long haul.
Overhaul on Curacao makes the case for preventive maintenance
Aqualectra, the power provider on the island of Curacao recently worked with Konecranes on a multi-phased crane renovation project. It grew out of a single call from Wärtsilä requesting an inspection on two cranes, a 1-ton Konecranes XL and a 2-ton Konecranes CXT. The equipment had been installed in 1997 when the plant was built.
According to Rafael Ojeda, repairs were scheduled in three phases as parts arrived, with technicians traveling back and forth from Miami. Meanwhile, Wärtsilä’s customer Aqualectra added a fourth crane to the project. They wanted to upgrade another 1997 two-ton CXT to radio controls, along with repairs to brake disks and friction plate, a limit switch and cover, and replacement of the motor coupling, upper sheaves, wire rope and bottom block assembly.
Wärtsilä’s Account Manager, Service Sales Fernando Aguirre worked with Konecranes to put Aqualectra’s cranes back into top working condition. When asked about the most challenging aspect of doing business in the Caribbean, Aguirre was candid about the need to promote consistent preventive maintenance.
“According to OSHA standards in the United States, plants are required to have their cranes inspected at least once a year,” Aguirre said. “Some of our customers in the Caribbean have not been required to do that in the past, but now it is part of the service we offer in our operation and maintenance contracts. It is our job to support our customers to enjoy the value of “by the book” maintenance procedures. With proper preventive maintenance, we can help them achieve a higher level of reliability and availability for literally millions of power customers.”
Both Wärtsilä’s Fernando Aguirre and Konecranes Rafael Ojeda stressed the value of formal crane operator training, both to improve safety and to extend the useful life of crane equipment.
“A properly trained crane operator creates a safer work environment for everyone, reducing downtime and possible serious injuries to personnel caused by improper crane operation,” Ojeda stated.
Fire recovery in Jamaica
“Of the various scenarios that bring Konecranes to a customer’s door, an emergency call-out is never good news,” says Rafael Ojeda. “Our goal is to make the customer whole again as soon as possible and work with him to prevent any recurrence,” he continued.
The largest of three independent Jamaican power providers, Jamaica Energy Partners (JEP) owns and operates two barge-mounted power stations, the Doctor Bird I and the Doctor Bird II. When the $96 million Doctor Bird I was built in 1994, it was the most advanced floating power plant in the world, generating 74 MW of output. Doctor Bird II was commissioned in 2006, adding another 50.2MW of capacity. Both power barges are located on the seacoast at Old Harbour Bay, St. Catherine, about 40 KM west of Kingston.
In September of 2013, Doctor Bird II caught fire when a connecting rod piston was thrown from one of its power generation engines. All three of the engine generating sets on the barge experienced damage, but only one was completely non-operational. Of the two 5-ton Konecranes CXT maintenance cranes servicing the generators, the fire totally destroyed one, and the other had significant damage.
After surveying the damage, JEP’s Maintenance Manager Robert Spence contacted Konecranes. According to Ojeda, a technician was dispatched from Miami to Jamaica within 24 hours, arriving on the scene a scant 48 hours later.
“Because of Konecranes ‘whatever it takes’ approach to customer service, we put a technician on a plane on the basis of one phone call,” said Ojeda. “I can safely say there is not another crane service provider in the Caribbean who could have gotten to the site faster.”
Parts were expedited to repair the damaged crane, and Konecranes quoted a new custom-made CXT to replace the crane that was beyond repair. Ojeda started the paperwork on the replacement 5-ton hoist and 111-foot electrification system before actually receiving any payment from the customer.
After undergoing repair on its engines and the surviving crane, Doctor Bird II was able to resume operation two weeks after the fire. A replacement CXT crane was built for the barge and was installed in March. While engine maintenance operations had been possible with only one crane, now things are back to normal on the power station. The second crane ensures a fail-safe if two power engines go down and require repairs at the same time.
“Our new crane is working fine,” says JEP’s Robert Spence. “Although it came from Europe and had to be built from scratch, overall Konecranes response time in this emergency situation has been very good.”
According to Spence, the largest problem he has with his cranes is parts sourcing, as the Konecranes products keep evolving and improving, and the new crane is substantially different from earlier models. Rafael Ojeda offered a solution for this customer and for other Konecranes customers in the region.
“A fire that completely destroys a custom crane is not something you can quickly fix. But for the vast majority of situations, having a strategic spares package for the customer’s specific crane on hand can get a customer back up and running in hours or days instead of weeks or months,” Ojeda says. “One of the services we offer is to specify a strategic spares list that the customer can purchase and store at their facility. That way they are available whenever they are needed. This approach can save customers countless dollars in unplanned downtime cost.” Some of the parts customers typically add to their critical spares inventory include brake assemblies, brake disks, pushbutton pendants, and wire rope. Depending on its task and workload, each crane may have a different list.
Wayne McKenzie, CEO of Jamaica Energy Partners, the entity that manages both the Doctor Bird II and West Kingston Power Partners, was generous in his praise of Konecranes response and commitment to his company in the aftermath of the fire.
“We see Konecranes as a strategic partner in ensuring the reliability of the product we sell to the Jamaican public,“ McKenzie says. “Without such excellent service the value of our product would have been compromised.”
Technician/Inspector Dave Tibbetts
Technician and inspector Dave Tibbetts has been a major force in the development of the Caribbean market for Konecranes products and services. “Dave Tibbetts has been the key player in every single completed and ongoing project for Konecranes Miami in the Caribbean and Central America,” says Miami branch manager Rafael Ojeda.
Tibbetts has inspected, assessed, quoted and performed all contracted repairs, developing and sustaining a professional and trusting relationship with his customers. According to Ojeda, this is exactly the model needed to foster business in the region.
Dave Tibbets is currently representing Konecranes Miami branch with electric power producers in Curacao, Jamaica, St. Eustatius, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, the Cayman Islands and Puerto Rico.