During World War II, Vancouver, Washington, was home to one of several emergency shipyards established to meet production demands. Ships were constructed in large bays with overhead cranes at a location along the Columbia River and, upon completion, launched right into the water.

ISG PCM’s headquarters is just a stone’s throw from what is now the Henry J. Kaiser Shipyard Memorial. Today the bays, still intact, are used for large manufacturing projects, including ISG PCM’s power control centers. A power control center, or PCC, is a fully integrated plug-and-play electrical power and control distribution building. ISG PCM is part of MDU Construction Services Group.

Transportation challenges
Mick Korum, ISG PCM general manager, said when a construction delay pushed delivery to a date that aligned with the closure of a major road the company planned to use for transport, they made a game-time decision to barge the two buildings that combined weigh nearly 1 million pounds.

“Each building is broken into two sections, and each section – or half a building – is 22 feet by 98 feet,” Korum said. “When you start talking about moving something that size across roads and bridges, there are significant challenges.”

Those challenges include crossing state lines, permitting, traveling through bridges and large cities, moving utilities and sometimes shutting down freeways.

Washington state requires an especially large, complex trailer to deliver such a load over its roads and the interstate bridge. However, barging the buildings meant they wouldn’t have to travel on Washington highways, enabling the PCCs to be shipped with a significantly simpler custom trailer meeting only Oregon requirements.

Managed by ISG PCM Senior Project Manager Rick Morse, the PCCs contained large substation transformers and switchgear from Germany, along with additional electrical and control equipment. In less than 10 months, ISG successfully designed, manufactured and delivered these units on time and on budget.

An uneventful event
When the PCCs were complete, the trailer was loaded with a Rover remote control vehicle straight onto the barge along with the truck used for delivery to the site. From the freshwater port right outside the factory in Vancouver, the barge traveled on the Columbia River to a port in Rainier, Oregon.

Korum said the distance from port to port was greater in miles than driving would’ve been, but barging was faster and less disruptive. Transport time was under four hours.

“The water transport looked impressive, but the team made it appear very simple,” he said. “Watching it was uneventful, which is just want we wanted.”

Upon arrival, the truck drove off the barge and on to the confidential client location via highway. Both PCCs will be placed on the roof of a large semiconductor factory by using one of the two largest crawler cranes in the world.

“The steel infrastructure is an engineering marvel,” Korum said of the building that will hold the power control centers.

Barging opportunities
Because of its barging capabilities, ISG PCM is looking at additional national and international markets where water delivery is necessary.

“Most of our competitors are landlocked,” he said. “The fact that we can barge straight from our factory onto a waterway that connects to a seagoing port is a distinct advantage.”