“Sweet” deal

20 March 2008

To be more competitive, USSC, a large sugar producer in the US, has invested $200 million in a new sugar and processing plant at its Clewiston, FL operation. Titled “Project Breakthrough,” the new plant will have a capacity of 40,000 tons of sugar per day.

Twenty evaporator and eight separator vessels weighing up to 137 tons each were to be manufactured and shipped from the Louisiana Gulf Coast region.

Dimensions of the vessels were up to 45 feet long and 21 feet in diameter. Barge sizes ranged from 180 by 43 feet to 195 by 35 feet. CRC's portion of the job was to transport the vessels off the barges from the Lake Okeechobee public boat ramp, over the levee, and then four more miles through town into the plant.

The boat ramp was not made with barge landings in mind. As the water level of the lake is closely regulated and often changed and the ramp slope was made to accommodate private watercraft, 40 foot barge ramps had to be constructed to bridge the gap. Engineering determined 1 inch by 10 foot by 40 foot steel matting sheets would need to be placed on the barge decks prior to the vessels being loaded in Louisiana to reinforce the barge to handle the point-loading of the Goldhofer platform trailer with the load. Planning was also made to load the vessels at the correct height to allow the Goldhofer transports under the vessels.

To complicate matters, during the course of the project, there would be several national bass fishing tournaments held at the lake, requiring the use of the public boat ramp. This would mean that the ramp would need partial demobilization from time to time between deliveries of the vessels.

Once the vessels arrived at the lake boat ramp, sandbags were landed on the submerged part of the boat ramp for the front end of the barges to rest on. At no time would the barge come in contact with the concrete boat ramp. Using a 100 ton capacity Liebherr LTM 1090 hydraulic crane, the 100 sand bags were hoisted into place.

The barges would be moored using two mobile cranes as dead men. Ballasting operations then began using four six-foot centrifugal pumps. Once the barges were ballasted to the correct draft, the barge ramps were put in place using the Liebherr crane. The ramps spanned the distance between the edge of the barge and the boat ramps. Timber matting was used on the boat ramp to adjust the barge ramps to a level fashion. To create additional control during offloading, the towboat remained hitched to the barges to maintain stabilization.

For the offloading and transport CRC used 6 and 12 line Goldhofer self propelled and towable hydraulic platform trailers. The Golhofers traversed the boat ramp and barge ramps to move on and off the barges. Actual offloading took about eight hours per barge.

The route to the plant involved traveling over the Okeechobee levee and uneven terrain with up and down grades. CRC worked with local authorities to relocate utilities along the four mile haul route. The Clewiston Police department provided escort services, and was very helpful when it came to crossing the intersection of Highway 27, one of the busiest four-lane highways in Florida.

One of the greatest challenges to overcome was the problem caused by a leaking barge transporting four evaporators. Crane Rental was also called to resolve that problem: finding a new barge and then mobilizing a 350 ton capacity Grove hydraulic all terrain to the site to hoist each vessel up and then shove the barges back and forth under the suspended load until all four vessels were relocated.

The final challenge was to schedule the hauling around the activities of a local high school to avoid any potential traffic problems. Once at the plant the vessels were either set on stools or taken directly to the main hoisting crane and tail crane for setting into their final position.


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