Heavy lift in Colmar

With the huge Liebherr mining shovels and the heavy General Electric (GE) turbines, the Rhine port of Colmar/Neuf-Brisach wants to develop the heavy lift activity

The first turbine, a 370-tonne piece, arrived by special convoy from Belfort. Stored at the terminal, it is due to be shipped at the end of the week to the major North Sea ports. Until now, these large turbines took six days by special convoy to reach the port of Strasbourg.

To optimise transport, it was decided, following a study, that they would be loaded on boat in Neuf-Brisach, “which reduces the road journey time to just over three days”, says François Strub, the director of the Rhine port.

The reason for this is the increased power, weight and size of the new generation of GE turbines. The largest of these are 430 tonnes. To enable these huge parts to be transported, roadworks were carried out last year on the departmental road 415 between Colmar and the Colmar/Neuf-Brisach platform, at a cost of more than 2 million euros: widening of the roundabouts and reinforcement of the bridges over the Ill and Thur rivers.

A new terminal in the EcoRhéna zone

The port itself has invested several hundred thousand euros to adapt its infrastructures to accommodate these monsters. “Colmar/Neuf-Brisach has a frequency of one turbine per month and Liebherr loads one ship per week,” explains François Strub.

“On the site, handling operations are currently carried out using a mobile crane rented by GE on a yearly basis. Its capacity of 1,000 tonnes makes it one of the largest mobile lifting machines in France,” he points out. The port wants to take advantage of this tool to generate new heavy parcel traffic on a permanent basis. In the long term, its strategy aims to create a new terminal with a gantry dedicated to heavy parcels on the land that the Rhine port owns in the EcoRhéna zone, the new name of the Balgau-Nambsheim-Heiteren-Geiswasser industrial zone.

After Liebherr and GE, the port has been “approached” by several companies such as Alstom and EDF, to load other products: “It could be locomotives for example.

Today, the traffic of the multimodal platform of Colmar/Neuf-Brisach represents about 1.5 million tons per year. One third of this traffic is carried by rail, one third by waterway and one third by road. This elicits the confident comment of its director: “Our existence is legitimate. In the northern industrial zone, industrial companies such as Constellium, Tereos-Syral, and the logistics company Gefco are dependent on the Rhine port of Colmar/Neuf-Brisach.