Tranzcarr Heavy Haulage moves big things a lot and often the loads are not terribly exciting. However, an acrylic underwater restaurant – a bit like a fish tank in reverse – showcases Kiwi engineering ingenuity and has got everyone talking.
BY MARY SEARLE BELL.
TARANAKI-BASED FITZROY ENGINEERING is a leader in its field, specialising in oil, gas and other energy engineering. However, its engineering know-how was recently enlisted to create an underwater restaurant destined for a coral reef in the Maldives. The company’s experience in creating pressurised sub-sea structures provided the necessary practical knowledge.
As challenging as the fabrication of such a structure was, getting the restaurant from the workshop in New Plymouth, to the port, onto the ship, over to the Maldives and then positioning it on the coral reef, posed a whole raft of other challenges.
The underwater restaurant was designed by Auckland firm MJ Murphy. Headed by Mike Murphy, the company specialises in aquarium design – large public aquariums in particular with price tags usually ranging from $1 million to $50 million.
In 2004 MJ Murphy designed and supervised the construction of the world’s first underwater restaurant for Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa. Now a second such facility has been manufactured and deployed, also in the Maldives – this time for Champalars Holdings, which is building a new luxury resort on Hurawalhi Island.
The location is ideal for underwater dining, with the Maldives having an outstanding reputation for crystal clear water and scenic coral reefs teeming with fish and other sea creatures.
The restaurant, which holds 24 diners, will sit on piled foundations on the edge of a steeply descending coral reef, one side facing the reef, the other looking out to sea.
On the deep ocean side, special concrete platforms host corals taken from what will be under the restaurant. The corals were replanted on the platforms and left on the seabed to get established and await the restaurant’s arrival. Once in place, the platforms were lifted off the ocean floor and bolted to the ocean-side of the structure. There they will attract fish and give diners on that side of the restaurant an amazing view of underwater life too.
The restaurant is constructed from five-metre-wide, 130mm thick acrylic arches and is 18 metres long and 5.4 metres wide. At one end of the transparent tunnel is a large 190mm thick acrylic panoramic window giving views along the sloping coral reef. At the other end is an impressive 13-metre high spiral staircase that gives access to the restaurant and two smaller windows. There is also a dumb waiter to bring food and drinks down from the above-water kitchen. There is, however, a small kitchen at the bottom of the staircase where staff can prepare food and drinks.
Fitzroy Engineering says the arches, which were fabricated in Japan by Nippura Co, are “optically perfect so diners will feel immersed and surrounded by the ocean and fish life”.
In New Plymouth, Fitzroy Engineering undertook all the steel fabrication, fitted the windows and roof and completed the ballasting, air conditioning, electrics and the internal fit out.
Working with MJ Murphy, Fitzroy Engineering achieved considerable efficiencies by building the floor of the hull from 114mm thick steel in order to add very efficient ballast weight. Procedures to heat, weld and safely rotate the 80-tonne floor were developed and implemented and this proved to be very successful.
“We worked out a way of flipping it over rotisserie style so that we could weld both sides to keep it straight,” says project manager Adrian van’t Hof.
The construction of the restaurant took Fitzroy Engineering nearly 10 months. On the evening of February 9 it was transported eight kilometres from the fabrication yard to Port Taranaki.
Moving the restaurant fell to Tranzcarr Heavy Haulage. The heavy haulage specialists had already shifted the restaurant once – before Christmas it was moved from the workshop to the paint booth so the exterior could be painted. Afterwards, Tranzcarr moved it onto blocks where the interior and other finishing works were undertaken.
At the time of the first move, the structure weighed around 200 tonnes – about half of its finished weight.
To load the completed 410 tonne, 22.5-metre long restaurant, a double-wide 14-axle trailer with 16 wheels per axle was reversed under it and the trailer’s hydraulics picked it up off the blocks.
Tranzcarr director Warwick Bell told Contractor the haulage to the port took four hours following a full day of loading and lashing the load.
The total train weight was 615 tonnes and the muscle was provided by two Kenworth heavy duty 849S Prime movers, a Scammell S24 and a Scania 144G.
Tranzcarr undertakes spectacular oversized moves regularly and this load posed no particular difficulties for the experienced team. However, substantial road works in central New Plymouth and more in the area around Fitzroy were “a major concern”, says Warwick. It required a fair bit of planning between Tranzcarr, the local council and road works contractor Fulton Hogan to ensure the load could get through.
As part of the New Zealand Transport Agency’s SH3 Vickers to City project, two bridges are being replaced and the road widened. Consequently, at the time of the shift, the road was narrowed to a single lane with cones. This required Fulton Hogan to have a crew out in the middle of the night to clear any restrictions, allowing the load to proceed without delay.
At the port the security gates had to be removed to allow the procession through. The load then sat at the port for two days until the crane ship Fairlane berthed. It then lifted the restaurant on board using its two 400 tonne cranes.
The 11,000-plus kilometre trip to the Maldives took three weeks, with the vessel arriving in early March.
The Hurawalhi resort and its underwater restaurant are scheduled to open in August.
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