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EP_19.jpg Nov/Dec 2005
Cover Story
Case Study
Lead 2
Bilfinger Berger
Arnold Laver Group

Over the last few years Abnormal Load Engineering has enjoyed a period of exciting development.


03.jpg Established in 1983, Abnormal Load Engineering (ALE) offers a global service for the transportation, management and installation of heavy, inseparable items, covering a range of sectors such as petrochemical, power generation, offshore, shipbuilding, civil works, ports, and heavy transport. With geographical locations and agency networks around the globe, ALE is able to work alongside and closely with its clients to satisfy their needs and requirements. Subsequently, it is also able to advise the optimal technical and commercial solutions, while finishing the work safely and effectively.

“ALE provides an integrated 'one-stop' service, which uses ground-breaking techniques and specialist equipment, not only to meet, but also exceed the expectations of its customers,” explains Mark Harries, ALE Heavy Lifts managing director. “Moreover, highly enthused, experienced personnel form the bedrock of what is a truly remarkable service.

“We are focused on appreciating our customers’ requirements and meeting them with innovative and cost effective solutions. In addition, we can offer an integrated 'one-stop' service anywhere in the world to provide a tailor-made service that ensures customers will see ALE as the first resort for a number of challenging tasks.”

Over the last two years, ALE has enjoyed a cycle of exciting development. The company purchased a new six-hectare site at Hixon, moved its head office and centralised the international projects division headquarters. At the same time, ALE finalised the purchase of the Bramble Heavy Contracting business, which offered increased opportunities in markets such as the UK, US, Malaysia, Spain and Holland.

“In 2002 Abnormal Load Engineering acquired the Brambles Heavy Contracting (BHC) Group, this business included Econofreight and Lastra,” says Mark. “I believe the Brambles acquisition is the single biggest step we have made in our history. The acquisition doubled our size and turnover overnight, signalling a new era for ALE, which saw us achieve greater expansion into markets such as Malaysia and the US.

“The acquisition has been a great success, and we would do it again at the drop of a hat, despite early teething problems. In simple terms, the acquisition has brought us bigger profits and seen us grow, but more importantly we can now offer an integrated service to our customers. The combination of ALE and BHC gives us the opportunity to retain the company at the top of heavy lift contractors for the offshore and load-out markets where Econofreight has an excellent record. We will also develop the reputation of Lastra in the civil engineering and shipbuilding industries.”

Despite recent exhilarating changes, ALE is hungry to achieve more success, outlining a five-year strategic plan that rests on three main aims: getting basic customer needs right; developing the professionalism and expertise of its staff; and investing in new equipment and research methods. “It is our aim to invest in heavy cranes for the international market,” adds Mark.

A recent high profile project that illustrates ALE’s all round capabilities in this industry came when Royal Caribbean International Limited and Aker Finnyards Incorporated recently approved a revitalisation project, including a mid body lengthening for some of its cruise ships. The first cruise ship of the fleet to be lengthened, as part of this project, was the ‘Enchantment of the Seas’. This ship will be fitted with a new mid body section of 22.2 metres, which saw the boat extended to 301.8 metres.

Aker Finnyards, who built the new mid-body section, gave ALE the task of transporting the construction. The mid body section was loaded onto a seagoing barge by means of special heavy duty platform trailers with a total of 432 wheels. After loading the barge on deck, the mid body was hauled a distance of 2320 kilometres over sea to Rotterdam. The barge together with the mid body section was then docked alongside the cruise ship. Once in position, eight hydraulic ALE jacking towers lifted the mid body from the barge. The barge was then towed away from the dry dock. When the dock was drained, the mid body section was lowered down by means of the 16 hydraulic rams, belonging to the jacking towers, onto a special ALE hydraulic compensating skid system, which was installed on dock floor level.

‘The Enchantment of the Seas’ was docked on a special skidding system with which ALE moved the bow section of the cruise ship forward. The bow section had weighed ten million kilograms and was skidded over a distance of 27 metres. Then the mid-body section was inserted by means of the hydraulic skidding system in between the two existing ship elements where after the sections were accurately positioned and aligned.

“Often, a customer will come to us with what they consider to be a problem,” comments Mark. “They want to move A to B, but simply don’t understand how to do it. Therefore, we take that problem, develop a solution and engineer a lift or transporter that allows heavy, inseparable items to be moved. It is rare that a customer comes to us and prescribes the service that they want.”

He continues: “ALE has been successful because of this bespoke engineering focus. Going forward, we hope this focus continues. Having said that, we also hope to improve the number of resources we currently have, while specifically increasing our lifting capacity. At present, the industry is very constrained. The customer cannot build bigger modules because the technology, which is used to lift or move such constructions, is simply not available. As a consequence, we hope to come forward with a new lifting solution that would permit customers to change their approach and start building bigger modules.

“Overall, we provide an integrated service that is characterised by clear analysis of requirements and the application of innovative techniques and equipment. Moreover, these tasks are performed by dedicated staff who are aware that exceeding customer expectations will provide a platform from which we will draw success,” concludes Mark.

Indeed, if the last few years are anything to go by, ALE should continue to be a major player in its industry. Additionally, if the company continues to get the basics right when addressing the needs of its customers, while investing in new equipment and research methods, then future prosperity can certainly be guaranteed.  CT-E

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