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ALE – A Combination of Technologies
ALE has been moving heavy loads since 1983. Initially a heavy lift transport company, today, with over 40 branch offices throughout the world, the company is ranked in the top three companies in the heavy lift industry for transport and craneage. HeavyLiftNews.com (HLN) spoke to their Sales Director, Richard Verhoeff, in ALE’s Breda office, for the first HLN Interview on the new HLN website format.
The growth of the company has been an integral part of striving to be the best. Being one of the biggest companies in the heavy lift industry is not the most important target for ALE, being better is important, however. The acquisition of the Dutch company Lastra / Brambles Heavy Contracting in 2002 made the base for their R&D division and vertical heavy lifting, which in turn has brought the company the innovation and the ability to solve engineering problems. Lifting with hydraulic jacks and cranage now supplemented the transport of heavy projects with their own customised solutions.
We asked Richard Verhoeff if ALE has a core activity, would it be heavy lifting or heavy transport? His reply was simply that it is moving heavy loads both vertical and horizontal, today there is no diversification in there anymore. Their only specification is that it should be carried out in the best way possible.
The recession in the oil and gas related sectors has not had such a drastic effect on them as has been experienced by other companies. During this slower period, they have achieved profitable results without having to sell off assets. Richard Verhoeff, “We have always been specialised in different fields, we are able to diversify between different sectors. The company does have some larger crawler cranes, but not the standard mobile cranes here in Europe… this is the lower end of the market. As a solutions-led business, we have been focussing on the higher end since day one.” This has obviously paid off because the company attracts the nice projects which are providing rapid growth within the market.
Richard Verhoeff, “With the rapid decline of the oil and gas market, the company saw the need to diversify to get the same type of revenue in. There were, however still pre-booked oil and gas projects which carried through for some time, some of then even until last year.”
The on-shore renewables market was quickly identified, and a complete Wind Services division was set up within the company to serve this industry, purely focussed on wind. They are now seen as the number 1 company in this sector… not only the erection work and mechanical work but also the electrical work, providing a full scope of delivery and installation. This section rapidly provided more than 80% growth in their renewable work.
In the past couple of years they are providing more and more services to the offshore wind sector; the wind turbine generator manufacturers and other components suppliers with transport from their point of manufacture to the marshalling area at whichever port quayside has been selected as the installation hub.
As Sales Director, Richard has a team providing engineered solutions to be included when tendering project solutions to prospective clients. Further down the corridor in the Breda office, more engineers are working on the new equipment to be used on the projects in the future.
HLN asked Richard Verhoeff about the R&D department that ALE have in the Breda office. “Their AL.SK cranes are a prime example of their own engineers’ work. Except for specific units, such as a power pack bought in from the manufacturer, the complete AL.SK crane is a product of this R&D division, as is the Mega Jack system.” The products of this division are for the sole use by ALE and not hired out or sold to third parties. As they are using the products themselves, they have a unique advantage in that the feedback from the operator to the designer is in-house, providing vital detail for improvements when required.
The division includes not only structural or hydraulic engineering but also includes electronic and software design for the essential control systems of their solutions. This is a unique combination not found anywhere else. A project can be provided with a bespoke software solution for the control.
Another great example of the R&D department is the newly developed 600t AL600 girder frame, providing the largest equipment for transport over conventional roads.
Away from the roads there are even heavier loads with SPMTs, for example, the 600 axle lines for the 17,000t move of the Korean ferry, Sewol, wreckage.
For an even heavier load in the oil and gas ALE has performed their heaviest-ever load-out operation by hydraulic skidding when performing the back skidding and load-out of the Appomattox hull, weighing over 40,440t, in South Korea for a Shell project in the Gulf of Mexico.
And finally the Malikai project where they jacked up the topside 40m high, before skidding it on to the hull – a distance of 90m whilst at this elevation – making these the world’s highest jack-up and skidding operations performed on this scale.
These projects are making world records, and it is Richard Verhoeff’s task to ensure that ALE have these projects.