Sea-Tow Limited has won a tender with Bechtel Australia Pty Limited to barge large fabricated modules from Brisbane to Gladstone for the construction of Comalco’s new alumina refinery.
The 13-month contract will involve at least 30 voyages consisting of assemblies weighing between 50 and 380 tonnes. The assemblies will be rolled on and off the barge using a heavy lift platform trailer provided and operated by Mammoet.
General Manager of Sea-Tow, Mr Ian Coombridge, said, “While Sea-Tow has at least 10 years experience of specialised heavy lift project cargo, including one and two-off voyages for many companies (including Bechtel), this is the largest heavy lift project on a continuous voyage basis the company has undertaken.”
Mr Graham Phillips, from Adsteam Harbour – Brisbane, has been appointed as Sea-Tow’s Project Manager for the contract, bringing many years of marine project experience to the team. He will co-ordinate and oversee all aspects of the project in Brisbane and Gladstone.
The vessels, tug Sea-Tow 22 and barge Sea-Tow 17, have arrived in Brisbane to prepare for the first voyage – four tanks, 14 metres high, 14.5 metres in diameter and weighing 100 tonnes each. Heavy duty ramps, 12 metres long, are being used to bridge between the load-out/discharge facility and the barge. These ramps, combined with ballast pumps installed in the barge, will ensure a maximum loading and discharge operating window, irrespective of the tide.
Mr Coombridge said the barging operation and association with Bechtel was significant, not only for the company, but for two other reasons.
“Firstly, it provides a model for major construction assemblies to be built at main centres where engineering resources are located, and to then be barged to more remote locations," he said.
"Secondly, the operation marks a positive advancement and opportunity for large barge work on the Australian coast.
“There is good potential for innovative barge work between Australian ports.
"As a niche market, barging is primarily suited to bulk cargo, shallow ports and berths, bar harbours, rivers and heavy lift or over-sized cargo.”
Sea-Tow commenced operations on the New Zealand coast in the 1920s.
The company expanded its operations fleet and operating area, crossing the Tasman in 1993 with a cargo of Anzac Frigate modules built in Whangarei and delivered to Williamstown for assembly by Tenix Defence Systems.
Since then, a larger tug with a range of 6,000 miles has been built and many Trans-Tasman, Australian coastal and South Pacific voyages have been undertaken.
Sea-Tow - which is jointly owned by Adsteam Marine Limited
and the Northland Port Corporation of New Zealand - plans significant further expansion throughout Australasia as major projects and cargo opportunities come on stream.