An emergency replacement transformer was recently transported 2 300 km from Johannesburg to the Cahora Bassa power station in north-western Mozambique in record time after one of the main transformers broke down.

In a project typically perceived to take three months, heavy lifting and transport company Vanguard managed to plan and execute the move in only three weeks, despite poor infrastructure and the challenge of a steep mountain pass.

Vanguard configured an 18-axle trailer to a Mercedes-Benz 4150 Actros with a gooseneck, which was ideal for crossing the majority of the 27 en-route bridges. “For bridges not rigid enough to support the transformer’s 130 t load, we worked with BKS and WBHO to construct temporary low-lying bypasses from sand and gravel,” says Vanguard’s MD, Bryan Hodgkinson.

The final stretch of the journey took the cargo up the Songa Mountain pass, which features a 35% gradient in certain places and sharp S-bends. “The 49 m trailer and prime mover combination was too long to get around the bends, so we trans-loaded the transformer at the base of the pass, reconfigured the trailer into a more manoeuvrable seven axles and hauled the load cautiously up the final climb,” says Hodgkinson.

A number of contractors were hired by the project’s main consultancy firm, BKS Group Mozambique, to complete the relocation before the start of the rainy season – which would have severely impacted on the construction of the temporary bypasses. Subcontractors included WBHO, which assisted with the civil construction of the bypasses; Calmark Solutions, which handled the border crossings from South Africa to Zimbabwe and from Zimbabwe into Mozambique; and ALC, who handled the route survey.