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Crane Index sees crane numbers drop during COVID-19

There were 772 cranes working on key projects across Australia in Q1 2020, according to the Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB) Crane Index.

The number of cranes is down five percent from 757 in Q3 2019, the last edition of the index.

RLB Oceania Director of Research and Development Domenic Schiafone said the current uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic will impact the industry for the remainder of 2020.

“Any shutdown of the industry will be felt for far longer than the shutdown period, as maintaining both the workforce and supply chains during a closedown will be difficult. The industry has never seen this type of disruption in generations, and the speed of mobilisation is an unknown,” Schiafone said.

According to RLB, there has been a shift over the last six months towards the non-residential sector, which has recorded its highest value since the introduction of the index in Q3 2012.

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A record 238 non-residential cranes can be seen across the country working on commercial, education, health and infrastructure projects.

Residential cranes had the largest fall, now accounting for 66 per cent of all cranes observed, down from a record high of 86% in Q3 2017.

“You could say that project work from a pre-contract point of view is frozen, due to there being (at this stage) no end to the restrictions put into place. Projects across most sectors, in the design phase, have virtually been put on hold,” Schiafone said.

“Pre COVID-19, the general feeling was one of optimism as new projects that were planned would come on stream to replace some of the activity coming to an end, and while not at record levels, 2020 volumes would be comparatively near or above the 10-year average across the country,

“However, this has tapered off from late last year and is now forecast to drop more rapidly.”

Of the 772 cranes sighted in Australia, 299 were in Sydney, 196 in Melbourne, 58 in Brisbane, 37 in Perth, 33 on the Gold Coast, 27 in Canberra, 15 in Adelaide, 15 in Wollongong, 11 in the Sunshine Coast, 17 in Newcastle, four in Hobart and one in Darwin.

Both Melbourne and Sydney saw falls in crane numbers but in different sectors. Melbourne suffered falls in residential cranes (from 149 to 122) but Sydney saw falls in both commercial (from 44 to 32) and education cranes (from 12 to three).

According to the Crane Index, five cities observed more cranes on the horizon (Brisbane, Canberra, Newcastle, Perth and the Gold Coast) and six had lower numbers (Adelaide, Central Coast, Hobart, Melbourne, Sydney and Wollongong). Two cities remained the same (Darwin and the Sunshine Coast).

RLB Managing Director Matthew Harris said the outlook is uncertain as COVID-19 restrictions could be in place for some time.

“Some property developers, investors and listed entities are reluctant to push ahead with any new projects,” he said.

“Both Federal and State Governments have indicated they wish to move ahead with new building and infrastructure projects given they want to keep the industry going. It remains to be seen how quickly this will happen and to what levels.”

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