How they brought the 1,700 tonne A-frame to Sunderland from Ghent

The 105m-long structural member for the New Wear Crossing has been successfully transported from a fabrication works in Belgium to the city of Sunderland in northeast England.

The logistics for the journey were carried out by Belgian engineer Sarens, which specialises in feats of heavy lifting.  

The first phase of the journey began in mid January, when the 1,700 tonne frame was taken out of the Victor Buyck steelyard in Ghent and loaded onto the two barges that would take it as far as the port.

The first challenge was to manoeuvre the pylon out of the fabrication yard and onto Jozef-Rosa and Karel-Victor, as they two Sarens barges as known. This was done using a combination of the company’s PJ250 jacking cylinders and a gigantic 52-axle self-propelled modular transporter (SPMT), armed with hydraulic winches.

Carl Sarens, the firm’s director of global operations, said: "This was a slow process because the ballast of the barges had to be carefully adjusted throughout the operation."

It then had to be inched along tight canals that were closed to other traffic, under a series of low bridges, and into the Port of Ghent. During the journey, Sarens operators often had only a 300mm margin of error on all sides of the pylon.

Once at the port, the pylon was transferred to Louise, Sarens’ seafaring barge. For this, Jozef and Karel were forced apart by SPMTs; once they were far enough apart, Louis inserted herself between them – a process that took two days to complete.

After this manoeuvre was completed, the SPMTs were used to rotate the pylon through 90° so it could be fixed to its supports. There then followed two weeks of preparations for the two-day sea journey to Sunderland.

This was carried out without incident, and the member reached its destination on 12 February. It has now been located in its final position and erected to its full height.

"We are delighted to have brought the pylon to Sunderland," Carl Sarens said. "It is a magnificent structure, so we are looking forward to seeing it raised into place."

A video of the pylon’s journey can be viewed here.

Top image: The frame being taken down the canals of Ghent for a meeting with Louise. Pictures courtesy of Sarens

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  1. Me en me brudder usted do stuff like dis when we’s were kids – usin me wagon, mes sister doll cart and mes brudders flat bottom canue. Papas ole truk pump-up jacks helped. I guess wes teached dem good!

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