Recent visitors to the shores of Lough Neagh along the Ardmore Road would be forgiven for thinking that they had taken a wrong turn and ended up at the shipyard in Belfast.
From a distance out, anyone travelling along the road from Ardmore during the last couple of weeks would have seen a colossal yellow crane and a ‘ship’ sitting on the ground at Emerson’s Sand Quay.
The scene came about after the Norman Emerson Group’s embarked on a week-long project to repair one of their sand barges – the Bayshore.
The spectacle of a sand barge out of water put into perspective the sheer size of the vessel as it dwarfed nearby vehicles, heavy plant and buildings.
Out of the water, the vessel had the dimensions of a modest sized ship.
The Bayshore was lifted from the quayside onto dry land for routine body work repairs on Monday, April 28 by McNally Crane Company.
Two cranes arrived in nine 40-foot trailers, and the first crane was used to build the second 150 tonne crane, capable of lifting 1,200 tonnes.
It took eight men two days to build the crane.
Managing Director George Emerson said: “The crane is capable of lifting 1,200 tonnes, but that has to be a straight lift. The angle of this lift meant she was lifting at maximum capacity.
“The crane was able to lift the 52-metre long, seven metre broad, 190-tonne vessel from the water and swing it through a 180-degree turn to leave it on dry ground propped up on concrete stools at the dockside.”
A specialised repair team set to work on steel repairs and propeller replacement over the next seven days to allow the Bayshore to be lifted back into the water on Monday, May 5.
And just like that the £7million crane was dismantled and relocated to work in Scotland the next day.
The Bayshore dredger was originally a Kempenur barge purchased in Holland which made its way to Lough Neagh via canal, sea and land back in 2002.
Once at Emerson’s Quay, the vessel was reconditioned from its original function as a freight-carrying canal barge into a Lough Neagh sand dredger capable of carrying 450 tonne of sand.
The transformation was carried out by Norman Emerson Group’s team of skilled engineers.
The Norman Emerson Group is no stranger to reconditioning barges, and since 1945, company founder Norman Emerson Senior had developed expertise in this regard, which has been carried on and expanded by his son, Kenneth.
Lough Neagh Operations Manager Kenneth and his son, Kenneth junior, spearheaded the vast operation and ensured that the Bayshore was ready and working again on Tuesday, May 6.
George commented: “What had the potential to be an extremely difficult operation passed off without incident thanks to precision planning by our Lough Neagh team, coupled with the skill and expertise of McNally’s men.
“Our company’s Lough Neagh sand operation has returned to normal working conditions with the Bayshore back in its natural environment of Lough Neagh – a ship no longer out of water.”