When The Boat Comes In

When The Boat Comes In

With the largest fleet of specialist narrow beam floating plant and pontoons in the UK, The Rothen Group is always floating new ideas

Requiring a gantry system, manual lifting, and multiple boats – lock maintenance can be a labour-intensive process. This is why after 18 years of working on the UK waterways, Ian Rothen, Founder of The Rothen Group, noticed a gap in the market for a smarter solution, which would not only make lock maintenance safer, but also more cost-effective and efficient.

The innovation explained

Fitted with a 16m extendable crane, which is operated using a controls device from a safe proximity, The Rothen Group’s 70ft narrow-beam crane boat has completely revolutionised how heavy canal locks are maintained and changed. The process previously required the use of multiple contractors to supply separate gantry lifting cranes, additional boats in order to carry out works, and manual lifting. Now, users of the 70ft crane boat are fully equipped to safely and efficiently do all manner of lifting and loading, in hard to reach areas of the UK’s canals and waterways.

The beginning

Looking to put the crane boat into action, Ian first approached long-time customer the Canal & River Trust – the UK charity responsible for protecting over 2,000 miles of waterways in England and Wales. Knowing that the Trust continually needs to demonstrate value for money and efficient ways of working, the 70ft narrow-beam crane boat was a perfect solution to improving current operations, particularly at awkward access sites.

Ian Rothen comments: “From working on the waterways for so long and taking a hands-on approach, I noticed an opportunity to develop and add features to work boats, which would make it cheaper and easier to transport and carry out jobs on the waterways. These savings, both time and monetary, are then passed on to our customers.”

Following a successful pitch and demonstration of the boats capabilities, it became evident that the 70ft narrow-beam crane boat designed by The Rothen Group would provide a safer and speedier alternative for the Canal & River Trust.

Brendan Kavanagh, Site Supervisor at the Canal & River Trust, explains: “The benefits were immediately obvious in terms of reduced time, cost and labour. The narrow-beam crane boat provides a complete alternative to using gantry cranes – meaning we would no longer have to source separate equipment from multiple contractors. Additionally, it also alleviates the need for manual lifting as operators can use a remote-control device, from a safe proximity, in order to move the crane and lock.”

Given that the Canal & River Trust has qualified operators across the country, The Rothen Group was also able to lease the 70 ft narrow-beam crane boat on a self-operational basis to the Trust. However, an in depth induction was provided by The Rothen Group to ensure the confidence and safety of users once handed over to the Canal & River Trust.

Ian, comments: The safety of the boats and our equipment is paramount and we go through rigorous testing and measures to ensure this is the case. This also means working with our clients to ensure that training and safety procedures are always followed when using our boats and equipment. In the case of the Canal & River Trust, who employ qualified site supervisors and operatives, we were able to offer and assess the training needs of staff so that it could be used on a self-operational basis. For clients who do not have this in place, The Rothen Group offers a complete full-service solution – providing both equipment and the operatives to be able to safely complete works.”

In practice

To start with, an initial trial was conducted at the Trust’s Caldwell Lock, on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, where it is not feasible to use a gantry crane. This is due to the layout of the lock, which had a footbridge at one end, leaving no room for the trackway which has to be laid down to sit the gantry crane on to enable it to move up and down.

Following a successful first project, the 70ft narrow-beam crane boat was then quickly booked up for the next six months by the Canal & River Trust. Further works have also been scheduled for jobs taking place in 2019.

Brendan, explains: “Not only has The Rothen Group’s 70ft narrow-beam crane boat significantly sped-up our operation by reducing the time usually taken to complete this type of job by up to two days, we are even ahead of our schedule and forecast to finish early.

To date, The Rothen Group’s 70ft crane boat has been used exclusively by the Canal & River Trust on three separate jobs, in Banbury, Worcester and Warwickshire, with exceptional results over the charity’s programme of winter maintenance.

The Rothen Group also has a wide-beam crane pontoon version, which has been purpose built to hold up to six tonnes, and is ideal for a range of lifting operations from piling and dredging to lock gate removal and installation.

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