Heavylift / Breakbulk
A «Love Story» in Strasbourg
In March a convoy with highly unusual dimensions transported a large General Electric turbine with a capacity of 510 MW from GE’s Belfort works to the inland port of Strasbourg. GE stated that this heavy goods transport represented a record for its Belfort works. One leg of the turbine’s journey, whose final destination was the USA, saw the unit loaded onto the barge «Love Story» in Strasbourg.
General Electric (GE), a US firm currently involved in a bidding war for the French industrial group Alstom, has been operating from its Belfort branch, its European headquarters with its own production facilities, since 1999. The prototype of a new gas turbine began its transport to the USA several weeks ago. Its rated capacity is 510 MW, which is large enough to supply 600,000 households with electricity. This brand new type of gas turbine is to be tested in the southern USA and prepared there for production readiness. The first of the new series will be released for field testing in 2015 in the French town of Bouchain, in the départment Nord.
A convoy weighing 800 t
On 5 March General Electric’s hitherto longest and heaviest transport convoy ever to hit the roads in France began its journey in Belfort. The group of vehicles measured a total of 109 m in length, with an average width of 6.7 m and a height of 5.7 m. The overall weight of all the modules and parts combined came to 800 t, with the gas turbine itself accounting for 390 t. Two trailers and two pulling and two pushing tractors were used for this unique heavy transport.
Rhenus Logistics was given operational responsibility for the transport. It had begun planning the route in October 2010. The journey of approximately 150 km in the densely-populated region of the départments of Belfort, Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin was divided into five journeys of one day each.
From Belfort the convoy first crossed over a bridge at Aspach, thence to Colmar, a night leg on the road from Eguisheim to Ebersheim, and then to Strasbourg via Illkirch-Graffenstaden. The route was sele-
cted on the basis of previous experience with heavy load transports.
Numerous accompanying measures were required en route, in order to smoothen the journey and make the transport possible. Several intersections had to be blocked and the traffic redirected. Certain sections of road and some roundabouts had to be widened as well as other modifications carried out. On-coming traffic lanes had to be blocked and their use closed in some places, including a road through Benfeld. Because conditions there were so windy the transport experts had to create a new exit on RD 829. On top of these kinds of road blocks and the suspension of road traffic in many places the transporters were also forced to partially suspend some bus services.
Belfort local government and GE collaboration
The local governments participated financially as well as practically in the operational aspects of the transport. Employees of the local Unité Technique d’Aménagement du Territoire (UTAT) were on hand to support the operation, including cutting branches off trees, removing and installing hoardings and sign boards, and switching off traffic lights and power supplies. The costs of these accompanying measures was estimated at approximately EUR 700,000, divided equally between General Electric and the Belfort district government.
The road transport took two days longer than planned. On 13 March the enormous plant and equipment was loaded on to the barge Love Story at the Port Autonome de Strasbourg, and the next stage of the journey proceeded without further loss of time. The trip on the river Rhine to Antwerp took three days. The next stage of the transport of the turbine and the rest of the modules was the maritime leg to the USA. On the other side of the Atlantic the port of Savannah GA received the consignments. From there the turbine was taken to its destination in Greenville SC by rail. The whole journey took a total of one and a half months.
The beginning of a heavylift friendship
In GE’s local test centre in Greenville gas turbine number 6F is to be subjected to a series of comprehensive tests. Should these prove successful, more heavylifts of turbines in Europe could be the result. Once the series is ready for mass production there are plans to supply the unit to users across all of Europe, including in northern France, from 2015 onwards. There is thus undoubted potential for follow-up heavylift contracts for the transport of these large turbines.