Argentia - There was some very heavy traffic near the Marine Atlantic terminal Friday. But it had nothing to do with cars and trucks lining up for the North Sydney ferry. The traffic was heavy in a more literal, 432-tonne sense.
A gigantic module constructed by GJ Cahill at the Metal World yard in Argentia was being moved almost two kilometres and put on a barge at the Argentia Management Authority wharf.
"It's a great accomplishment," project manager John Kennedy said once the module started moving.
"It took a lot of hard work by a lot of people to put this all together. You start with engineering drawings, then you get the materials, and then you've got to try to put together the puzzle. It's great to see it finished."
The module is basically a filter that will be used in refining at the nickel processing facility Vale is constructing in Long Harbour.
That's where the barge was to transport the five-storey monster Saturday afternoon.
Cahill contracted a company based in Holland called Mammoet - Dutch for "Mammoth," fittingly - to move the structure.
To do so, the firm used what's best described as a pair of remote-controlled flatbeds with multiple wheels. It's called a self-propelled mobile trailer.
Mammoet's Al Smith said they do this type of work around the world. He described the module being moved Friday as a "comfortable load."
"But we have Mother Nature, and there's a lot of grey areas," he cautioned, noting Mammoet was well prepared in terms of equipment and manpower.
Once the multiple wheels start turning, Smith said they closely monitor ground conditions and make sure there are no utility poles in the path.
Things got rolling just before 9 a.m., under the control of a Mammoet employee who walked behind the module with a console that included two Atari-like joysticks.
"It's really cool to see it moving," said engineer Aimee Trahey.
The module moved at a much higher speed than a spectator would anticipate. It quickly travelled a few hundred feet before stopping so crews could move wires out of the way and fill holes with gravel.
With that work done, the module was guided through the Marine Atlantic gates. From there, it kept rolling, past the ferry terminal and along the shoreline to the Argentia Management Authority wharf.
Fences had been taken down and a muddy area was covered with plywood to keep the module from being slowed or getting bogged down.
The structure, which is 80 feet long and 50 feet wide, arrived at the wharf about 10:45 a.m.
"It went really smooth," Kennedy said.
The challenge then became making sure tidal conditions were optimal for moving the apparatus onto the barge.
Things were predicted to be just right at 4 p.m., and that's when the module started rolling again.
It took about 50 minutes to get it on the barge and secured.
After it was in place, construction manager Len Gushue said it was a great achievement for Cahill, the workers and province.
"It's a great milestone for Newfoundland itself," he said. "It's great to be a part of it."
The success of Friday's move was comforting for Cahill.
As part of its contract with Vale, the company will soon move a similar module.
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