– Kees Claasen, Director – Netherlands
The director of ALE, the heavy transport and lifting company, discusses how the company tailored its offering for challenging environments such as the Bering Sea, and how they work to best serve companies in the Dutch oil and gas sector.
For the benefit of our international readership, can you introduce ALE in the Netherlands, and your principal operations here?
ALE is a worldwide service provider in terms of heavy transport and lifting, consisting of over 30 branches together forming the ALE group of companies. In ALE in Holland, much of the work is highly technical project work, taken forward for the group internationally. Innovation and ingenuity, delivering novel solutions for clients is our priority here. Here, we have to anticipate market trends and deliver for tomorrow. We need to plan so that in five or six years, we continue to be the leading edge of heavy lift capabilities wherever we are present. One example is our AL.SK fleet of cranes, which are the largest capacity land based cranes available, and our MegaJack projects, such as our recent 42,780t lifting operation in Korea. There was not a market for this system until we delivered it – people did not conceive lifting loads in this manner was possible until ALE developed this operation.
Today, clients are looking to build higher and lift heavier. They are seeking to operate in challenging environments such as the Bering Sea. We looked to develop systems for these capacities, in terms of cranes and jack-up units, and have done so very successfully.
In 2008, you launched your AL.SK190 crane- can you tell us the story of the development of this crane, and how the innovation agenda is being pushed forward by ALE at this moment?
Well, we saw from the market that crane capacities are growing constantly. Not only in terms of sheer lifting capacity, but also radius capacity- the distance one can lift from the central axis of the crane. This means that one can site a crane more easily without disrupting plant operations by lifting heavier loads, often further away from the base of the crane. Our AL.SK350 crane can lift 750 t, 120 m away from its base.
We wanted to develop this crane in a manner that could be delivered in containers (the AL.SK190 requires 120 containers), reducing mobilization and demobilization times. This was a significant differentiator between our product and that of traditional crane makers, which offer cranes which are far less readily transported. Such a crane is fine if required in place for a couple of years, but ALE moves rapidly from project to project and requires a solution to match.
With regard to the MegaJack operations, our new products were produced in response to the weight of topsides going up to 35-40,000 t and jacking-up heights moving to around 30 m high. There was not a system capable of doing this in one move – but ALE developed one. We’re still planning ahead, so our jack-up system is modular, to support the projects of tomorrow, which could be even 50,000 t. This was one of the biggest elements of the concept – modular, cumulative capabilities. In Korea, we used 12 jacking towers, in four corners of the topside. We had 60,000 t of lifting capability, though with more towers, we could lift more.
What are the particular success stories ALE has in the Netherlands which you would like to highlight?
The market in the Netherlands is small; the principle purpose of the Dutch office is to support our larger, international operations. We however, do deliver highly innovative solutions with high precision here in the Netherlands. Around two years ago, we undertook an offshore installation for Shell, where we devised an out of the box idea which worked perfectly. To explain, in order to add an extension to an existing platform, we added a monopole mounted topside. Typically, these units are transported in a vertical fashion, and installed with cranes but this project was transported by ALE horizontally, in order to fit under a number of bridges. Using a supporting tilt-frame, we were able to position the monopole right next to the existing asset.
This had never been done before, but we achieved this working with partners who had supplied the units to be transported. This innovation is simply part of the premium service and capabilities we offer.
Aside from seeking solely larger scale capabilities, what other factors are you trying to develop in order to maximize ALE’s utility to the client?
Next to the obvious – ALE’s solid safety record and unrivaled credentials and experience, I should highlight the rebranding ALE went through a number of years ago. Our motto is smarter, safer, stronger – and the company lives up to that. We are active and innovative, delivering smarter solutions to the client. These smarter solutions don’t only offer cost savings to the client, they also offer a greater spectrum of possibilities as well, from reducing building time to maximizing the range of what is achieveable in confined spaces. Safety is of course paramount, and we pursue this goal every day. Lastly, stronger is not just the strength of our equipment – ALE staff can always be relied on to give that extra push to see a project concluded successfully. Our people in both the office, speaking to clients, and our staff on site, taking forward the work, are trained to ensure our clients are fully satisfied by our efforts. If I was to sum up what makes ALE truly successful, it is that we dare to take a risk.