Crane Hire

About

The story of a family owned and operated crane hire company

Universal Cranes began as a family crane hire business in 1993. While Universal Cranes has grown to become a national crane hire company, local families still own and operate our branches throughout Queensland and New South Wales. We are proud of all the unique stories that make up the history of our company.

Key Group Personnel

Albert Smith – Group Managing Director

Albert has over 30 years of experience in the crane and construction industry. As a passionate engineer, entrepreneur and crane enthusiast, Albert led the rapid expansion of Universal Cranes from a small pick and carry hire business to a leading national crane company. Albert’s vision has always been to combine the power of a national crane hire company with the passion and service levels of a family business. He has worked closely with the local shareholders of the Universal Cranes branches in the establishment of their businesses, and continues to provide ongoing mentoring and support. Albert is a dynamic leader and talented engineer who leads his national Universal Cranes team to provide innovative lift engineering and crane hire solutions.

Oliver Martin – Group Chief Executive Officer

A Chartered Accountant by trade with over 20 years’ experience, Oliver was appointed the Group Chief Executive Officer of Smithbridge Group, including Universal Cranes and sister companies Smithbridge Guam and Auckland Cranes in May 2020. Oliver has led the financial management of the Group since 2010 in the role of Chief Financial Officer and later Chief Operations Officer. As Group CEO Ollie is responsible for the financial and operational performance of the group, leading the business to achieve growth and sustainability in revenue and profit, driving operational efficiency, and role modelling the leadership behaviours to maintain a high performing, engaged culture. With over 10 years’ in the Smithbridge Group Oliver is well positioned to be a key leader to all facets of the group.

Shane Young – Chief Financial Officer

A Certified Practising Accountant with 15 years’ experience, Shane joined Smithbridge Group in March 2018 as Group Reporting Manager and quickly progressed to Group Financial Controller. Now, in his role as CFO, Shane brings a background in the financial management of labour intensive operations with a passion for fostering successful teams. With a focus on supporting the operational business with data-driven reporting, and efficient and user friendly technology, Shane is leading the transformation of Smithbridge Group’s financial management to support the ongoing governance journey.

Kevin Ball – Group Manager, Safety & Systems

With 20 years’ experience implementing operational and strategic risk management frameworks in the resources and construction sectors, Kevin brings a systematic approach to identifying and managing risk in complex businesses.  As a key member of the Leadership Group and working within diverse geographical and operational environments, Kevin’s demonstrated ability to leverage technology in the innovative design, development and integration of systems and processes, provides cohesive business solutions to balance current needs, future growth and promote a positive learning culture. Kevin has served as a Committee Member for Standards Australia for nearly 20 years, including the role of Chairman on the ME-025 Lifting Tackle Committee and Member of ME-005 Cranes Committee

 

Dashelle Bailey – Group Manager, Strategy & Growth

Dashelle has over 10 years’ experience in corporate communications, specialising in strategic planning and growth strategies through business development, diversification, tendering, and campaign planning and management. Dashelle co-founded a business-to-business strategy and communications agency with a niche in the resources and construction sector. In 2019 Dashelle joined the Smithbridge Group full time, managing business improvement, marketing, and commercial growth strategies to contribute to achieving sustainable profitably for the Group. As part of a long-term succession strategy, Dashelle has been an Advisory Board Member for 5 years for Smithbridge Group. She was a nominated as a Non-Executive Director for Auckland Cranes in December 2017.

 

Universal Cranes is governed by the Smithbridge Group advisory board, as part of a long-term governance and succession strategy. The Group’s advisory board is Chaired by Michael Fitzpatrick, working alongside Advisory Members Greg Fokes, Ben Smith, and Dashelle Bailey.

Universal Cranes established 1993

Universal Cranes was established with a small depot at Clontarf and a fleet of three franna cranes.

Depot Relocated

Universal Cranes depot is relocated located to Nudgee, Brisbane.

Albert Smith

Albert Smith begins the Australian chapter of his business journey, initially establishing a marine construction operation based in Brisbane, with its first win on a BP wharf project.

The Universal Cranes fleet grows

The Universal Cranes fleet grows to two crawlers, one lattice boom truck crane, two All-Terrain Cranes, two mobile truck cranes and three Franna cranes

Waikato Auckland Cranes established

Albert Smith becomes a shareholder in Universal Cranes’ sister company Waikato Cranes in Hamilton NZ, and Auckland Cranes is established as a division based in Wiri.

Head office moves to Brisbane

The Smith family and head office of Albert Smith’s businesses moves to Brisbane, Queensland.

NZ construction business is sold

Albert Smith’s NZ construction business is sold to HEB Contractors, with the Australian business becoming the key focus. Albert's NZ construction business completed a number of renowned projects throughout New Zealand, including the Otira Viaduct and the Tauranga Marina (pictured).

Albert Smith purchases Universal Cranes

Albert Smith purchases Universal Cranes and adds his existing Australian fleet to double Universal Cranes to a 20 crane operation. After a stream of significant contract wins Universal Cranes becomes quickly recognised as a new, reliable and innovative crane hire company.

Bulimba A Power Station purchase

Universal Cranes purchases the decommissioned Bulimba A Power Station at Gibson Island (pictured above circa 1953) and commences renovations to the office building.

Universal Cranes relocates from Nudgee to Murarrie

After extensive renovations, Universal Cranes Brisbane relocates from Nudgee to Murarrie, occupying the renovated office building. The power station footprint is used as the workshop and repair yard, and the transformer footprint is used for crane parking.

Margot and John Hanna open Universal Cranes Sunshine Coast

Margot and John Hanna open the Universal Cranes Sunshine Coast Pty Ltd branch as 51% shareholders.

Universal Cranes enters the wind industry

Universal Cranes enters the wind industry, providing secondary support cranes to KR Wind in South Australia and Western Australia.

Universal Cranes acquires Strong Cranes Ballina

Universal Cranes acquires Strong Cranes in Ballina, which is renamed Universal Cranes Ballina. Colleen and Bill Lang open the Ballina branch as 51% shareholders.

Universal Cranes becomes the Australian representative for Sarens

Universal Cranes becomes the Australian representative for Sarens, an international leader in heavy lift and transport. Universal Cranes purchases the Sarens Australia mobile fleet including four All-Terrain Cranes, plus trucks, trailers and vehicles. Universal Cranes enters the 250T to 600T heavy crane market as the Sarens representative, offering the Sarens international fleet in Australia.

Universal Cranes acquires sister company Gold Coast Cranes

Universal Cranes acquires sister company Gold Coast Cranes Pty Ltd. Ian Bourner and Paul McCormack each become 25% shareholders in Gold Coast Cranes Pty Ltd.

Universal Cranes acquires Yeppoon Crane Hire

Universal Cranes acquires Yeppoon Crane Hire to establish a branch in Rockhampton.

Universal Cranes acquires Austin Crane Service

Universal Cranes acquires Austin Crane Services in Rockhampton. The Yeppoon and Rockhampton businesses are combined to trade as Universal Cranes Rockhampton Pty Ltd. Pictured above is Universal Cranes working on the Yeppen Floodway in Rockhampton.

Universal Cranes acquires All State Cranes NQ, Hinspeter Crane Services

Universal Cranes acquires All State Cranes NQ, and Hinspeter Crane Services in Townsville to establish Universal Cranes Townsville Pty Ltd. The branch is established by Gordon & Tina Willocks as 50% shareholder managers.

Universal Mini Cranes Pty Ltd is formed

Universal Mini Cranes Pty Ltd is formed with Tony and Joanne Billington as 51% shareholders, and specializes in small spider and mini crawler cranes, operating from Universal Cranes’ Brisbane yard

Universal Cranes on the Gateway Upgrade Project

Universal Cranes provides crane hire for the historic Brisbane Gateway Upgrade Project.

Sarens recommences independent operations

Sarens recommences independent operations in Australia and Universal Cranes becomes an independent supplier of heavy lift cranes.

Universal Cranes purchases a Demag CC2800

Universal Cranes purchases a Demag CC2800, expanding the fleet capacity up to 600T. This enables growth in the wind industry in South Australia, with a three year crane contract for Suzlon to supply the primary lift crane.

Universal Cranes Brisbane officially transitions colour scheme

Universal Cranes Brisbane officially transitions to the iconic blue and yellow colour scheme, and bright yellow machines become easily recognised throughout the city.

Universal Cranes’ crawler fleet grows to 30 machines

Universal Cranes’ crawler fleet grows to 30 machines in the range of 50T to 250T capacity.

Universal Cranes purchases two 400T crawler cranes

Universal Cranes purchases two 400T crawler cranes to boost the crawler fleet.

Universal Cranes wins CICA People's Choice Award

Universal Cranes is nominated for the 2011 People’s Choice Award at the Annual CICA Crane Conference.

Universal Cranes establishes a branch in Gladstone

Universal Cranes establishes a branch in Gladstone. Universal Cranes Rockhampton becomes a sub-branch of Gladstone.

The midsize crawler fleet reduces from 30 to 20 units

The midsize crawler fleet reduces from 30 to 20 units due to external sales and the transfer of machines to Albert’s other business interests in PNG, NZ and Guam, to match the reducing Australia market.

The group commences operations in PNG

The group commences operations in PNG as a constructor and crane hire business.

Universal Cranes New Caledonia is established

Universal Cranes New Caledonia is established, taking over equipment used by the group’s other construction activities, to establish a crane hire business in Noumea. An additional 300T AT Crane is mobilised to New Caledonia to supplement the fleet.

Universal Cranes Roma is established

Universal Cranes Roma is established to support the coal stream gas industry with a significant contract with Santos. Cranes up to 200T are transported to the Roma depot (pictured above on the road train).

Universal Cranes adds a 350T All-Terrain crane to the fleet

Universal Cranes adds a 350T long boom All-Terrain crane to the fleet to service the Brisbane tower crane market.

Albert Smith divests Australia construction activity

Albert Smith divests Australia construction activity to focus solely on crane hire. Despite tough industry conditions, Universal Cranes continues to perform and grow throughout Australia.