The “Wagenborg Barge 8” pontoon, which was used as the carrier for the bridge, arrived at the port of Kirkenes on the Norwegian/Russian border on 15 May 2017 in what were regarded as good weather conditions locally; it was seven degrees Celsius. The barge carrying a 120 metre long network arch bridge had left Wilhelmshaven almost three weeks earlier; it had now reached its next milestone in Norway after a journey of 3,000 kilometres.
Schachtbau Nordhausen based in the German state of Thuringia manufactured the components for the bridge; the order for this structure was placed by the Norwegian building authority “Statens vegvesen”. The steel girders were transported to the Rhenus Midgard site in Wilhelmshaven for final assembly prior to shipment. “We decided to assemble the bridge in Germany because the weather conditions in northern Norway are often severe, there are difficulties reaching the site and only restricted resources are available locally,” says Matthias Roeder, Project Manager at Schachtbau Nordhausen. “After all, we simply have better facilities here from a logistical point of view.”
“The port on the North Sea does not depend on tides and offered ideal conditions for handling the order. The site is about as big as two football pitches (15,000 square metres),” says Björn Knust, Operations Manager at Rhenus Midgard in Wilhelmshaven, explaining the benefits of the site. “Our business location is directly linked to the A29 motorway via the Friesendamm main road. As a result, the shipments were able to reach us easily, quickly and without any major obstructions.”
Bridge assembled at Rhenus Midgard
The Rhenus Midgard site was bustling with activity related to steel girders and bridge elements for seven months. That was the time that as many as ten specialists from Nordhausen needed to assemble the core element. The crucial time finally arrived on the morning of 19 April. The completely assembled bridge was loaded on board the “Wagenborg Barge 8” pontoon and was secured for the journey. The 320-metre long Braunschweig quay provided the best conditions for this; it has a draught of almost 12 metres.
“The huge steel arch reached towards the blue sky and glistened in the sunshine,” Björn Knust recalls. “Two special self-propelled vehicles had already been installed under the bridge on the previous day. Then the 120-metre long, 13.5-metre wide bridge, which weighed about 700 tonnes with the supporting structure, slowly started to move. It finally rolled on board the pontoon’s deck via steel ramps. A tug kept the pontoon in the correct position. The barge is 100 metres long and the bridge therefore protruded ten metres on each side. We’d completed everything by the afternoon.”
The North Cape still had to wait a while
However, it was not possible to start the journey immediately. The trip was delayed by eight days due to poor weather conditions. The “Wagenborg Barge 8” finally passed through the lock chamber and headed for Kirkenes on 27 April; it was towed by the “MTS Vanquish” tug and supported by two other tugs; the destination was 3,000 kilometres from Wilhelmshaven. Aside from a few interruptions due to the weather, the trip at sea was completed without any problems.
Once the cargo had arrived in Norway, the mountings were loosened, and the bridge was raised about four metres. This work took three days. “We entered the fjord on the high tide on 19 May. This involved sailing round some shallow spots – and that was no easy task with a 700 tonne bridge on board.” says Matthias Roeder, recalling his impressions.
Snowfall and precision work
“After a waiting period, we used the next high tide and took up position directly between the two bridge piers. We anchored the pontoon there and rotated the bridge to get it into position. Unfortunately, the good weather didn’t last. It kept starting to snow and the strong wind at times didn’t make our work any easier either,” says Roeder. It was possible to place the bridge on the piers at low tide. But two more days were needed to align the bridge fully and secure it. “This called for precision work and everything had to be just right, down to the last millimetre.”
The work at Kirkenes not only involved Matthias Roeder, but a team of five employees from Nordhausen too. Following two more sessions of assembly work in June and July, the bridge was handed over to Statens vegvesen on schedule in the autumn.