State workers had to lower water levels on the Mohawk River on Tuesday to make room for a massive piece of equipment being shipped up the Erie Canal.
A barge from New Jersey-based DMC Marine was able to clear two bridges and make it to the Crescent terminal with the “cold box” bound for GlobalFoundries’ Fab 8 campus. From Crescent it will make the last leg of its journey to Fab 8 on a large flatbed trailer.
The machinery represents only a fraction of the materials being shipped this year on the canal, which is seeing more commercial traffic this year than it has in 20 years.
The canal system typically handled between 8,000 and 12,000 tons of cargo each year. This year, Canal Corp. spokesman Shane Mahar said, the system is projected to handle 100,000 tons.
DMC Marine manager Chris Cardella on Tuesday said the huge piece of equipment is in one piece and couldn’t be disassembled for shipment by any other means. It required a 1,000-ton crane to move it onto the barge. It also needed more clearance to make its way beneath Saratoga Avenue and a railroad bridge in Waterford on its way up the Erie Canal.
DMC, a subsidiary of Donjon, travels the Hudson River more often, carrying scrap and salvage material from the Port of Albany to the Port of Newark in addition to carrying aggregates back and forth.
Cardella said the canal is an ideal transportation mode for equipment like the cold box headed to GlobalFoundries — items like transformers are too heavy to go any great distance on roads and too big to be carried on a rail car.
He said such shipments are required once or sometimes twice a year, and he said the Canal Corp. handled the task professionally.
“They did exactly what they said they could do and did it on time,” Cardella said.
GlobalFoundries spokeswoman Jessica Kerley said in an email Tuesday that the shipment involved about six months of planning and required coordination with the state Department of Transportation to ensure the cold box could be shipped safely.
The unit takes in air and separates its components to generate pure oxygen and nitrogen that’s used at the plant, she said.
“The canal system is another great example of the unique assets New York state has to offer businesses such as GlobalFoundries and its suppliers as they attempt to compete in the global marketplace,” Kerley said.
Mahar said one major element of the increase in canal shipments is grain from Canada, which travels into Lake Ontario, then through the Oswego Canal to an ethanol plant in Fulton, north of Syracuse.
Overall, 90 percent of the canal system’s commercial shipments travel between Lake Ontario and the Hudson River via the Oswego and Erie canals.
Products being transported include radar dome material, liquid calcium chloride, commercial paper dryers, aggregates, turbines, commercial boilers, transformers and other “oversize” items.
Canal Corp. Director Brian Stratton, in a prepared statement, said the Erie Canal revolutionized transportation nearly two centuries ago.
“The innovation the canal represented came well before rail, road and air travel advancements, which came later — but today’s canal system remains an efficient, viable means of moving speciality and bulk cargo between the East Coast and the Great Lakes,” he said.