Wind cargo is continuing to pick up at Port of Longview, and longshoremen last week handled the longest wind blades ever to pass through the port’s docks. Each 177-foot blade is half the length of a football field, including end zones.
A total of 25 longshoremen worked over three and half days to unload the Illinois-bound blades for Vestas Wind Systems, according to the port and Jones Stevedoring, which coordinated the effort.
Vestas Wind was attracted to the port’s direct-to-rail system which allows the blades to be unloaded from the vessel and placed directly onto a rail car. The shipping method, which the port debuted last summer, removes several steps in the unloading process, including moving the blades from the vessel to the truck, storing the blades at the laydown yard and then loading them onto rail cars.
“I don’t think any other port on the West Coast has that ability so that’s a major selling point,” said Steve Cullen, manager at Jones Stevedoring. “This is a huge cost saving to the customer.”
Using both of the port’s Liebherr cranes in tandem, crews lifted the blades off the Chinese vessel to place them on on-dock rail system. Longshoremen then secured blades to specialized swiveling bases that lock the turbines in place but allow them to rotate with each turn on the rail line, according to the port. The quick-lock method allows the port to send wind products further distances, according to the port.
The Port of Longview expects to handle at least two more wind cargo shipments this year, including one in May.
In 2009, wind energy accounted for 40 percent of the port’s total revenue at the height of the wind energy boom. But as demand for wind components dipped, shipments of new turbines through the port slowed to a trickle. Before last August, the port hadn’t handled a wind-related cargo in at least four years.
Now wind appears to be making a comeback at the port, bolstered by the direct-to-rail method and business from Vestas.
Last week 60 blades were unloaded using the direct-to-rail method in Longview, and another 30 are being stored at the port because there isn’t enough space at the wind farm project to accept them yet, Cullen said.
“It was quite exciting that these are the longest ones that have ever been handled in Longview,” Cullen said. “There are so many factors that have to be on the same page to make this happen. It is quite a coordinating feat.”