LOOKING UP. Potain deal is inked. (Photo courtesy of Manitowoc Crane Group)

An American-owned manufacturer announced on Jan. 12 that it inked a lucrative $10-million deal with Nanjing No. 3 Yangtze River Bridge Co. Ltd. to design, build and deliver the two largest tower cranes in the firm’s 76-year history.

The order marks a big step for Potain, a French arm of Manitowoc Crane Group, Manitowoc, Wis., as it continues to seize China’s booming opportunities for heavy-lifting tower cranes. Potain first engaged China with a manufacturing joint venture in 1985. Today, it fully owns a plant in Zhangjiagang and faces fierce competition from international firms like Kroll, Liebherr and Terex, as well as local producers.

“I think that we are a little ahead of the competition because we have the experience in China and are the only outsider in the Chinese market with locally made cranes,” says Eric Etchart, Manitowoc’s executive vice president of Asia-Pacific in Shanghai.

The two units, valued at about $5 million and rated at 160 metric tons, will be Potain’s new flagships. The units will erect steel-pylon framework on the $362-million, cable-stayed Yangtze River Bridge No. 3 in Nanjing.

Foundation work is almost complete and the entire bridge structure is slated for completion in 2007 (ENR 11/24/03 p. 36). Standing tall over the Yangtze, the two massive cranes will help erect the 3,000 tons of steel needed for the bridge’s 210-m-tall steel pylons. The cranes are scheduled to be delivered in June and will stay on the site through December.