June 21 - ALE has completed the load-in of the 17,000-tonne Sewol ferry, as part of the salvage operation in the East China Sea.

The heavy lifting and transportation specialist was contracted to perform the load-in operations of the ferry, which capsized three years ago.

Although the ferry had an estimated weight between 11,000 tonnes and 13,000 tonnes, there was no way of confirming the actual weight or the centre of gravity position until it was lifted from the seabed and positioned onto the barge.  To ensure a successful lift, ALE was asked to factor in a larger centre of gravity for the lift than normal with a 3 m radius, which is 2.5 m bigger than the usual 0.5 m radius.

Upon arrival at the load-in location, it was discovered that a significant amount of mud remained inside the vessel, which increased the weight by 4,000 tonnes. Based on the results of the first load transfer test with self-propelled modular transporters (SPMT), the ferry was later calculated to weigh approximately 17,000 tonnes and, as a result, ALE had to re-engineer a load-out solution.

The revised load-out solution resulted in an additional 144 axle lines needing to be sourced at short notice from local subcontractors, which ALE managed to achieve within 24 hours from Kwangjin Transportation, Hanjin Heavy Industries, Hanjin Transportation, Myungjin Shipping Corporation, Dongbang, Leeyoung Industrial Machinery and STX Corporation.

According to ALE, the project utilised a record-breaking number of SPMTs, 480 of which were Scheuerle axle lines, while the remaining 120 were Kamag axle lines.

The ferry's orientation - lying on its port side - as well as the widespread damages to its hull and superstructures, created further challenges for ALE as it meant the engineers faced unpredictable deformations of the cargo during the load transfer from the grillage beams, as well as during the transport phase.