March 31 - South Africa headquartered Vanguard has successfully transported 15 transformers from Namibia to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), utilising its fleet of prime movers and heavy-duty modular trailers.

Vanguard was also tasked with installing nine of the transformers, each of which measured 5.3 m x 4 m x 4.85 m, at the final project site. The remaining six units will be installed later this year.

Dennis Scholfield, Vanguard's executive manager, said that 20 power lines along the route had to be lifted, a task that was performed in conjunction with the country's national electricity company, as the power supply had to be temporarily cut while the lifts were conducted.

"While the road surfaces were generally in good condition, there were numerous small towns along the way where congestion posed a challenge," said Scholfield. "It was also difficult at times to control the faster traffic, as our convoy travelled at a regulated 40 kph."

Upon arrival at the project site, the units were offloaded onto temporary stools using a hydraulic lift system - a task made more challenging due to difficult conditions. "The uneven loading site was worsened by torrential rains and soft ground conditions which are not ideal for heavy loads," Scholfield explained.

Once the foundations were prepared, the transformers were lifted and loaded onto Vanguard's self-propelled modular transporter, offloaded, slid onto the plinth and placed into final position.

For this contract, Vanguard made use of its heavy lift facility in Walvis Bay to discharge the vessel and offload the transformers into a temporary storage facility, ready to be re-loaded for transport.

To complete the 3,000 km journey from Namibia the DRC, Vanguard successfully negotiated both the Kapolowe River bridge and the Lualaba River bridge, following intensive coordination with stakeholders to secure the necessary permissions.

"This is the first time that loads in excess of 90 tonnes have been transported by road into the DRC. Previously, the transformers being replaced were brought by rail from Angola in 1973," stated Scholfield. "We began our planning as far back as August 2014, to allow for optimal preparation, as this was an extremely challenging route."

To ensure the highest levels of safety, Vanguard discussed the load bearing capacity with the builders of one the bridges, said Scholfield: "This led to a decision for us to cross that bridge only after 10pm, when the concrete was at its strongest - having cooled from the intense daily temperatures experienced in the DRC."

As part of a second operation on the site, Vanguard was tasked with relocating twelve old 140-tonne transformers to a storage area located on site, using its hydraulic jack and slide system.