A very tense Swedish winter thriller
What first comes to mind when you think of Sweden in winter? Probably cross-country skiing, elk, snowmobiles, even bizarre criminal cases or mulled wine – certainly not the transportation of a 206 MVA transformer weighing 162 tonnes and measuring 8096 x 3871 x 4808 mm through the snow.
It’s a completely different story with the transportation and logistics professionals of our Dutch group member, Royal SMIT. During the summer of 2018, our colleagues in Nijmegen were already working on state-of-the-art transformer transportation that will no doubt outshine many others. While the sheer size and weight of some Royal SMIT transformers makes their delivery a logistical challenge, the time of year was to be a specific factor on this occasion. A transformer had to be delivered in the depths of winter to a hydroelectric power station in northern Sweden. More accurately, transportation was planned for the end of January / beginning of February. In order to be able to plan and execute the logistics in the best way possible, Royal SMIT brought the heavy goods transportation specialists from MAMMOET into the equation again, to face the adversities of the Nordic winter together.
Chapter 1: The Voyage to Umeå
In Nijmegen Harbour in the Netherlands, they are of course already used to loading up SGB-SMIT Group products quickly and safely, but that was just the beginning. The transformer had to travel through the North Sea, the Kiel Canal, the Baltic Sea and finally the Gulf of Bothnia. The last part of the journey was particularly enthralling, since the gulf is frozen for up to several months a year, a freighter suitable for ice was required.
Chapter 2: The Harbour
Holmsund Harbour near Umeå promised a frosty reception for the Royal SMIT transformer. With temperatures down to -24°C, snowfall created conditions for unloading the cargo that were far from ideal. However, our partner MAMMOET was prepared even for this. A local partner company prepared the dock with sand so that the wheels of the heavy goods transport would have enough grip during removal. But the next hurdle was just around the corner...
Chapter 3: The Bridge
After leaving the harbour, the transport team faced a rather particular challenge. The onward route involved a bridge that was lower than the transporter and transformer combined. The site had already been measured in the summer and was incredibly tight. If the transformer is pulled on longitudinal beams and a sledge under the bridge, there is a mere 3 cm gap left between the highest point of the transformer and the underside of the bridge. Incidentally, this technique of drawing the transformer on a sledge is normally used at the installation site to bring the transformer to rest in its final position.
However, despite careful prior measurement, nothing initially seemed to work at the bridge. The Swedish winter had deposited so much ice and snow onto the surface that the 3 cm dwindled away to nothing. Therefore, the road had to first be cleared of ice with mobile gas burners before the transformer could be unloaded from the transporter, pulled under the bridge and loaded up again. This involved high-precision work that took several hours to complete.
Chapter 4: The Road to the Power Station
After mastering all these adversities, the final stretch to the customer was almost routine. As the snowfall increased, heavy snow clearing equipment accompanied the transport convoy. This meant that the heavy goods transporter needed to be shovelled free again after an overnight stop, and the road had to be kept clear during the journey.
Finally, with a delay of only two days, the Royal SMIT transformer arrived at the power station, the second largest hydroelectric power plant in Sweden. After a voyage of 6 days at sea, 8 days on the road and a total of approximately 3,200 kilometres, the handover, installation and commissioning all went smoothly.
The result is a satisfied customer and an execution that remained on schedule despite adverse conditions and many obstacles. The entire SGB-SMIT Group pays tribute to Royal SMIT for this particular feat in terms of their dedication, and thanks the transport partner MAMMOET for their support.