American Shipper

2010 Olympics: one Vancouver hosts, one Vancouver hoists

2010 Olympics: one Vancouver hosts, one Vancouver hoists

Thanks to the business acumen of an East Coast freight forwarder, the Washington state Port of Vancouver will play a key role in the 2010 Winter Olympic aspirations of the Canadian city of Vancouver 300 miles to the north.

   When confronted with moving massive cable car system components from the heart of Europe to under-construction Olympic facilities on the Canadian West Coast, Hermann Amsz, chief executive officer of New York City-based Omnitrans Corp., personally reconnoitered the possible routes for the shipment. His assessment: Moving the components — reels of cable weighing up to 89 tons each — through the Canadian Port of Vancouver wasn't practical. Amsz found the Canadian port did not have a crane capable of lifting the reels, and renting a private mobile crane would have been an expensive option.

   At Vancouver USA, Amsz found a heavy-lift crane with 140-ton capacity and personnel that are used to heavy-lift shipments. In fact, the crane is the largest mobile harbor crane in North America and has played a critical role in the helping the port become the heavy-lift go-to facility for the West Coast. This includes a booming trade in massive wind turbine components heading to electricity-generating wind farms in Oregon and eastern Washington.

Reels of cable being loaded aboard a Rhine Rive barge in Basel, Switzerland.

   Omnitrans is delivering the 10 reels from Swiss cable manufacturer Fatzer AG's facility in Romanshorn, Switzerland, to the Whistler, British Columbia, the Olympic site about 60 miles north of Vancouver, B.C. Four of the reels weigh 89 tons each, one is 82 tons and five smaller reels weigh 10 tons each, for a total shipment weight of nearly 490 tons.

   Once delivered by Omnitrans, the cable on the reels will be stretched between Blackcomb and Whistler mountains, creating the longest free span cable lift in the world and carrying 28 passenger gondolas. When the $53 million Peak2Peak lift is completed later this year, the gondolas will carry nearly 30 passengers each on an 11-minute trip between the two peaks. Supported by only four towers, the gondolas will travel 2.73 miles reaching a world record highest vertical point of 1,361 feet above the creek at the valley floor. The tram way also breaks the world's record for longest free span, with an unsupported distance of 1.88 miles between the two towers.

   The reels, set to arrive at the Vancouver, Wash. port the first week of June, started their journey April 10 at the river port of Basel, Switzerland. Traveling by barge more than 450 miles up the Rhine to the Belgian Coast, the reels were transferred to the Star Shipping cargo vessel, Star Indiana, at the Port of Vlissingen. The Star Indiana departed on April 23 and is set to transit the Panama Canal on May 10, en route to Vancouver, Wash.

Gondola for the Whistler cable Tramway.

   When the reels arrive at the Vancouver port, the five heavy reels will be transferred to rail and shipped more than 375 miles to a rail siding in Whistler. The five 10-ton reels will be sent ahead by conventional truck shipment. Once at Whistler the heavy reels will be transferred to a special four-section, articulating Goldhofer heavy-lift trailer. Each section of the trailer has six axles with eight wheels each and a hydraulic sliding platform feature allowing the reels to be loaded directly from the rail car without the use a crane.

   To climb the 6,000 feet up Blackcomb Mountain to the construction site, the Goldhofer trailer will be assisted with a 30-ton rock truck pulling in front and another pushing from the rear. Transporteurs Unis, of Montreal, Canada, is handling the trucking portion of the Omnitrans project.