The Mission River Project - Australia

On a mission

Tropical heat, lead and asbestos. High winds over open water, crocodiles and sharks. All in a day’s work for KAEFER’s team at the Mission River bridge in Australia.

Client: Rio Tinto

Location: Weipa, Queensland

Services executed: Surface Protection

Project dates: 2019-2021

Saltwater crocodiles are the largest living reptiles and can grow to a length of up to 6 metres. Bull sharks are over 2 metres long and are known for their aggressive, unpredictable behaviour. These are just two of the challenges the KAEFER team had to face when remediating steelwork and paint on the Mission River Bridge in Northern Queensland, Australia.

Built in 1971, the bridge provides vital road and rail links between the Andoom bauxite mine and the port operations at Lorim Port. Given its age, many of the ferrous surfaces needed refurbishment and replacement as well as corrosion treatment. The structure also contained asbestos and lead in the existing coatings, adding to the complexity of the task. To top it all off, the rail line operates 24 hours a day, with trains crossing every half hour.

Refreshing the parts others can’t reach

To overcome these challenges and to breathe new life into the Mission River bridge, KAEFER used a range of methods, including a specific traffic management system to ensure work could be carried out with minimal disruption.

To get to the difficult to reach areas, a jack-up barge was used to give access safely and efficiently. Compared with a conventional barge, which is also susceptible to tidal movements, the jack-up barge gives access with a lifting platform, making it safer and easier to reach certain areas on the bridge. The platform has all the necessary equipment and facilities, which increases productivity.

The lead and asbestos-containing coatings presented their own, unique challenges, as the area was prone to powerful winds over open water. To overcome these issues, KAEFER used full encapsulation of all the affected areas, with a 200 mm double layer BLASTCLAD protective sheet as an enclosure. This meant that all hazardous waste could be collected and disposed of safely.

As with all project sites, the COVID-19 pandemic required several adjustments to continue operating safely and effectively at Mission River. Recognising these challenges, the Project Team developed a COVID-19 Risk Management Plan, including initiatives such as reconfiguring the site in line with social distancing requirements.

Playing our part in the community

Despite the many environmental and physical challenges, the team successfully completed the job two months ahead of schedule and also recorded zero injuries or incidents in the process. That wasn’t the only part they played, however. Throughout the course of the project, the team noticed that rubbish had washed up on a local beach. They took matters into their own hands and organised an off-duty clean-up operation, collecting more than 14 bags of rubbish to be disposed of.

The path across the Mission River is now well on its way to being clear, safe and ready for another 50 years of use. The local crocodiles and sharks have their natural habitat too, just a little bit cleaner than before the KAEFER team came to complete their project.

The KAEFER Mission River team

Jack-up barge and encapsulated parts of the bridge

Beach clean-up