Five years of “Fortitudo”

Fabian Klasen
January 2024

The self-developed heavy-lift ​barge​  Fortitudo celebrates its fifth anniversary this year. While its home port is Weil am Rhein, it is rarely seen there. 

Most of the time, this unique vessel can be seen on French inland waterways. ​However​​ the Fortitudo is also on the move in Germany and the Benelux countries. The​ following​ pictures show a few of the highlights of the “specialist” for heavy and bulky items. What distinguishes the Fortitudo from the other ​Péniches​ is its load capacity of 300 tons and the possibility to load voluminous ​items​​ of up to 25 meters in length and 4.60 meters in width.

In July 2018, the Fortitudo ​was​ launched at the French shipyard in Fécamp (Normandy). Her first voyage takes the heavy-lift ​barge​  from Calais in northern France to Strasbourg in Alsace. A transport from plant to plant, ​the vessel was ​loaded ​with​  three ​items​ for autonomous power generation.

The Fortitudo transports heavy-lift colli and bulky ​items​ of up to 300 t directly via the inland waterway and canal network. On her journey from Neuf-Brisach to Lyon in 2019, she loaded a 230-tonne stator. On the way, ​she​ passed the EU Parliament in Strasbourg and the autumn-coloured Vosges Mountains. In the Rhine-Marne Canal, the transport ​was​ held up by a plague of algae. ​So huge​ quantities of algae ​had​ to be fished out of the lock before ​the vessel​ c​ould​ continue. ​Additionally,​​ t​he direct waterway between Alsace and Lyon was closed, so ​the vessel had to take a​​ detour​ via Lorraine, Champagne and Burgundy. During th​is​ three-week trip, the Fortitudo mastered 326 locks, three tunnels and 2 watersheds.

When it comes to tunnels, bridges and locks, the captain of the Fortitudo often ​performs precision work, down to the millimeter.​ ​This is due to the fact that​ the heavy-lift ​vessel​  is ​optimized​ for the French canal network​;​​     ​its dimensions are based on the specifications of the canals of the Freycinet network and have been stretched to the maximum. This ​leads to ​particularly narrow ​manoeuvres​​ . For example, the passage through the tunnel in Han sur Meuse on the French Meuse near Givet is ​quite a spectacle​​ ​.

​​The route for a heavylift transport passed through the middle of the French capital, Paris, during the summer. ​​Destined for Nogent-sur-Seine, hundred kilometers away from Paris, ​the Fortitudo​ loaded with a 280-tonne rotor,​ passe​d​, the Eiffel Tower and the Bridge of Tsar Alexander III, one of the most beautiful bridges in Paris. ​