Ship demolition on a grand scale

By Lindsay Gale22 June 2011

Working from a pontoon, these three Hitachi ZX870-3s will break up 70 ships in Mauretania

Working from a pontoon, these three Hitachi ZX870-3s will break up 70 ships in Mauretania

Mammoet Salvage is starting work on an unusual demolition job to break 70 ships occupying one of the largest ship graveyards in the world. Some 300 vessels have been abandoned in Nouadhibou Bay in Mauretania, Africa, posing a hazard to the environment because they contain dangerous substances, including oil residues, asbestos and insulation materials.

As part of a €28.8 million (US$41.4 million) European Union project to clear the waterway, Mammoet will remove and break up 70 of the vessels, ranging in size from 200 to 1,200 tonnes. Work has already started and is expected to last 22 months.

To carry out the work, it has taken delivery of three specially modified Hitachi ZX870-3 excavators from that company's official Dutch dealer, Hitachi Construction Machinery (Europe) NV Domestic. These excavators will work from a pontoon because the vessels concerned are all anchored out at sea. from there, they will cut the rotting ships into smaller pieces.

The three machines were specially modified by the dealer in just three weeks to carry a powerful cutting tool. Their booms were extended by 1.5 m (4.9 ft), an additional 5 tonnes of counterweight was fitted to ensure they could handle large pieces of metal and tracks were fitted that are designed for use on the pontoon.

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