ALE conquers 'never attempted' transport

04 May 2018

Covering almost 1,000 land and nautical river miles in Venezuela, United Kingdom-based ALE was tasked with transporting six 22 MW power plant engines from Puerto Ordaz to the Santa Ines Refinery

in Barinas State, Venezuela. As the distance was so vast, and weighing a combined 1,891 tons, the project was split into three phases.


Because of the logistical challenges involved in moving the six engines, coordination was key. ALE was constantly in communication with federal and local authorities. 

“The route was incredibly varied, involving different terrains and of varying infrastructure – water and land – and transportation through small towns as well as large, populated cities, and through rivers that had never been sailed on before. We had a very tight water window and had to transport all six engines at the same time. As a result, ALE needed to take the appropriate risk-mitigation strategies and safety measures,” said Javier Gutierrez, executive director, ALE. “Safety was key throughout the project, and the client was extremely satisfied, providing written support as well as a recognition award by the client.”

ALE’s team began the initial phase in December 2014 following the transatlantic navigation of the six engines from Italy and the trans-shipment to the barge, measuring up to 91 meters long, on the Orinoco River. The engines sailed on the barge from the reception point on the Orinoco River to temporary storage at the Alianza River Wharf in Puerto Ordaz.

ALE’s team needed to study and monitor the Orinoco River levels to estimate the necessary adjustments to be made to perform the load-in maneuvers in February 2015. Once loaded in, the engines were again stored temporarily while waiting for the Orinoco and Apure Rivers to reach their optimum levels of navigation. During this time ALE prepared for the next phase, the river transportation.

The Orinoco River changes water level by 40 feet between the December-May dry season and the May-November wet season. The Apure River is only navigable in the months of July and August. To barge during the high-water levels, ALE had to wait until July. The second phase started in July 2015 and involved loading the six engines at Cabruta quay on the Orinoco River. ALE utilized 24 axle lines of SPMT to load the engines onto one 300 by 100 by 25 meter barge. Three pusher boats with low draft were deployed to help with barging 550 nautical miles along the Orinoco River.

Never attempted before

One of the most challenging parts of the route involved passing underneath the Maria Nieves drawbridge serving San Fernando de Apure, located on the Venezuelan plains. An operation like this had never been attempted before by ALE, or anyone, and required an impressive logistics effort and a close coordination between local, regional and national institutions.



The bridge could only be passed underneath a few days a year because of the negative combination of air draft and water draft limitations. Then, a new central span removable bridge had to be performed, which took one year to design, build and install.

Eight months later, the three barges carrying the engines passed underneath of the new removed span bridge and the first convoy of engines arrived at the Puerto Nutrias Naval Base for temporary storage in Barinas. The final phase involved the inland transportation of the engines from the storage location to the Santa Ines Refinery Development. The engines

were loaded from the storage area onto a girder frame trailer, (fabricated by ALE), using a gantry system composed of one 500-ton SLS strand jack unit. The engines were then transported using 40 axle lines of conventional trailers with three prime movers.

During the 198-kilometer route, the convoy crossed bridges, travelled through small towns and Barinas city streets, before arriving at the refinery. It took six days for each engine to be transported between October and December 2016. The project finished in January 2017, with all installation and demobilization completed.

The cargo consisted of six dual system generation Wartsila engines that measured 14.258 meters by 5.324 meters by 6.016 meters and weighing 318 tons each.

ALE transported the engines over 500 nautical miles and 200 kilometers. ALE used a combination of SPMTs, power packs, conventional trailers and trucks, barges and low draft pusher boats, a gantry system composed of two 200-ton strand jack units, HLS2000, and a 500-metric ton capacity girder frame.

Considering the route, huge preparations were undertaken by ALE’s experienced team. Route studies resulted in dredging and reinforcing port slabs for receiving the engines. Some 15 bridges were reinforced. Most notable was the unprecedented pass under the Maria Nieves Bridge, the only lifting bridge system in Venezuela.

ALE estimated that the project required 30,000 man hours.


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