Heavy lift and transport giant Mammoet assisted freight forwarder UTC Overseas to assist with the transportation of 11 engines, each weighing 287 tonnes, to a remote location in San Antonio, Colombia.

One of the biggest challenges was transporting the heavy cargo across five weak bridges and narrow roads (Photo: Mammoet)

The engines were required for the construction of a new 200 MW power plant by the energy company Celsia.

The isolated location of the site was chosen due to proximity to the gas source and to help bring jobs to the local area.

The client had initially considered receiving the engines at one of the region’s two main ports (Cartagena and Barranquilla), which would typically handle operations of this type.

“At first, the client was thinking it wasn’t possible to transport the engines fully assembled to the job site. They were considering dismantling them into two pieces. With smaller pieces it is easier to transport, so this was their initial plan. Of course, the downside to this is that you would then need to build the engines on site, so you need more time, more people, more resources and money. The scale of the project would double,” said Mammoet sales manager Edilber Guerrero.

The public port of Compas in Tolu is closer to the site but is typically used for loading and unloading coal vessels, not heavy load cargo. Receiving the engines at Cartagena (the closer of the two main ports) added 100 km to the journey and further road restrictions.

Adapting routes

Mammoet proposed to use the port of Compas and an alternative route of secondary roads to allow the operation to be carried out more efficiently and with complete engines.

Mammoet had to prove that the port of Compas had the capacity to receive the engines as there was particular concern that the connection bridge between the quay and the land could handle the exceptional load.

Mammoet transporting one of eleven 287 tonne engines in Colombia (Photo: Mammoet)

Once approved, the engines were shipped from Europe on a single vessel to the location.

On arrival, they were transshipped via crane from the vessel onto conventional 20 axle line flatbed trailers with a prime mover and then transported to a holding area inside the port. From there, they were delivered, by road, to the site in convoys of three.

The team had already determined that the main highway would not be suitable for the cargo due to a long 100 metre bridge with insufficient load capacity. Therefore, they proposed an alternative route to bypass these restrictions.

The route consisted of unpaved narrow roads, so modifications were carried out. The roads were levelled and compacted, and vegetation trimmed back. Wire-relief teams were also used to lift and temporarily disconnect low-hanging cables.

One of the biggest challenges was transporting the heavy cargo across five weak bridges. Support ramps were installed to allow the convoy to travel safely across them without overloading.

Liaising with locals

When the convoy eventually joined the national road, it entered populated urban areas and faced different challenges.

“We had to manage traffic, people and liaise with the local authorities to agree the exact times that we were going to cross the towns,” said Edilber. “Co-ordination with the local communities became the challenge. In advance, we lifted as many of the cables and removed roadside obstacles, such as billboards, but there were still a few cables that had to be raised during transit.”

When the convoy finally arrived at the site entrance there was another challenge to overcome. The road leading to the site had a small weak bridge, so steel columns were installed to reinforce it and allow the cargo to pass.

Inside the site there was little space to manoeuvre, so the cargo was transshipped onto Mammoet self propelled modular transporter (SPMT). This allowed the tight turns needed to install the engines into their final positions, which was completed using a track-and-slide system.

Mammoet’s plug-and-play solution found efficiency in the port used and in the route taken. It allowed for all eleven engines to be transported as complete units; avoiding the need for any assembly to happen on site.

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