MultiDocker is a Swedish cargo handling solutions provider, manufacturing handlers using Caterpillar components. The company was born in 1981 out of sea transport company Österströms Rederi AB’s desire to complement its shipping activities with portside loading/unloading capabilities. Its first vehicle was a modified excavator with cabin elevator and a 17 metre reach; the success of this led the team to continue developing purpose-built machines, essentially settling into a close partnership with Caterpillar in 1997. Subsequently, the MultiDocker Cargo Handler (CH) range was launched in 2000 and has become one of the most reliable and efficient methods of loading/unloading ships up to approx 20,000 deadweight tonnes (DWT).

The core of MultiDocker’s business is its handlers, and three models are available from the company: CH85C, able to handle loads up to 22.4 tonnes; CH74D, able to handle loads up to 17.7 tonnes; CH70D, able to handle loads up to 17.7 tonnes, and CH49E, able to handle loads up to 15 tonnes. Mentioned when the company was previously featured in Shipping & Marine (2011 issue 11), the CH49E is based on Caterpillar’s 349E excavator and offers a 21-metre reach making it ideal for smaller or more spatially limited applications. Like the rest of the range it incorporates the unique E-Power electric engine concept that provides silent operation, reduced emissions, and up to 70 per cent lower fuel costs compared to equivalent diesel engines. CH49E will be crawler track based and is expected to be launched in the second quarter of 2013.

Furthermore MultiDocker is in the process of launching a wheel based model in the 70 tonnes size class, MultiDocker CH70D. The machine will be able to handle loads up to 17.7 tonnes and will be available in a low built version and a high raised version. This model is expected to be launched in the second quarter of 2013.

E-Power has been an important development in MultiDocker’s history. Sales director Fredrik Österström elaborates: “Our electrically-powered machines were developed two years ago and have become very attractive to the marketplace. We believe that demand for electric power will definitely increase within the next couple of years so the CH49E is an ideal solution for many. Nonetheless, MultiDocker will continue developing the E-Power concept to be even more competitive and cost efficient.”

MultiDocker has been incredibly successful in the marketplace, retaining very steady business even throughout the shipping and financial crises. There are a number of factors leading to this result but one of the most important is the relationship MultiDocker has with Caterpillar and its parts. Because the CH range is modelled on Caterpillar’s own machines and shares many of the same components, the handlers are instantly familiar not only to users but also to engineers. Caterpillar has the widest market spread of any manufacturer in its field, meaning service stations and spare parts are ubiquitous worldwide. MultiDocker therefore immediately has a worldwide local service network that end users can approach.

Using Caterpillar components has also opened up new markets. “One of our main strategies is to reach out and collaborate with Caterpillar dealers,” Fredrik says. “For example we recently signed a dealership agreement with Zeppelin, which is the Caterpillar dealer in Germany and one of the largest Caterpillar dealers in the world. This has very much opened up an avenue into the country for us, and we are already seeing a lot of business potential. A high number of machines have been sold in a very short time and there is a clear interest in our products that will really help sell our business there. Co-operating with dealers has been a good move; it takes time but we are now capitalising on the strategy.”

Linking up with other Caterpillar dealers will prove to be an effective long-term strategy because it opens a huge array of opportunities. This highly successful first step into Germany, for example, will become fuel for MultiDocker’s direct expansion into other regions because the manufacturer can highlight it to other potential dealer partners. “In addition, because Caterpillar is used throughout many industries and not just shipping, by co-operating with dealers we have customers in the industrial sector opened up to us,” Fredrik adds. “In our history we have only worked in ports and port terminals, but there are so many other prospects for us now.”

This is good news for a company that, as previously mentioned, has maintained comfortable figures despite challenges. “During the first half of 2012 business was really good, and then as per usual it stopped around the middle of July and has remained pretty quiet since,” Fredrik states. “Business is now beginning to pick up again and we can clearly see that it will keep a steady pace until at least the end of the year. There is of course a worry about the global economy – it is in the back of our minds – but so far we haven’t seen any of it. We now have several research and development projects ongoing that will lead to innovations users want. Even if we sell fewer traditional motor-operated machines next year, we will still be selling enough new E-Power and other innovative models to balance the deficit.”

MultiDocker is in a very confident position for the future. Its continuing relationship with ukCaterpillar and Caterpillar dealers will introduce new markets to the company’s machines whilst strengthening its existing business in Sweden and Germany. The launch of CH49E and CH70D in the second quarter 2013 will reinforce MultiDocker’s market leading activities whilst the company undertakes further development on its range of machines to meet the expectations of clients. “We hope to continue geographically into France and Spain within the next two to three years,” explains Fredrik, “but we will be taking a step at a time. For the moment we must focus on Germany, establishing our brand and business, before making the next move. Caterpillar has a 30 to 40 per cent share of the German market – depending on what machines are counted – and our objective is to achieve and maintain a similar figure before moving on.”

New cargo handler CH49E and CH70D
Recently entered German market
Close relation sith Caterpillar