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Upper Michigan Energy Resources

Vic’s recently worked in partnership with the shipping and freight forwarding company Martin Bencher Group on the biggest heavy haul project in company history – offloading 10 reciprocating internal combustion engines from a cargo ship in Michigan’s upper peninsula and transporting them up to 65 miles to new power plants.

Typically, the Wärtsilä engines in question are shipped in pieces from their manufacturing site in Italy to the U.S. due to their massive size – 325 tons, 46 feet long and 20 feet tall. But this traditional process is costly, as the engines must be meticulously reassembled in specially constructed clean rooms once they reach their final site. Vic’s has previously offloaded and hauled fully assembled engines over a short distance, but Wärtsilä and Martin Bencher Group wanted to determine if it was feasible to transport them for a longer overland haul. The answer: with planning and engineering expertise from Vic’s, it is.

Vic’s initially began work on the project in 2016, performing feasibility studies and route surveys. Planning took more than a year, with arrangements required for a special offloading process of the ship in L’Anse Bay, as well as coordination with 12 different utility companies to raise 294 power lines along the haul route to enable the trailer to pass underneath.

Normally, for a ship with cargo of this size to offload, the area next to the dock is dredged. However, in this case, dredging was not possible due to the proximity of sensitive water pumps for a nearby power plant. So Vic’s arranged to drive its 14-line Goldhofer trailer onto a barge, which allowed the ship to remain in deeper water by acting as a temporary pier.

Vic’s coordination with the local utility companies was also key to the project’s success. Working in advance, the utilities were able to raise their lines well before the engine transport, which prevented the “leapfrog” process that often happens when a utility uses a bucket truck to temporarily raise lines one at a time along a haul route.

The project captured the attention of local residents, as the area has not seen a cargo vessel since 1956. The engines are now in staging sites, awaiting final installation in the new power plants. Once the plants are ready, Vic’s will return to the U.P. with its gantry system to set the engines on their foundations.