Smooth sailing for Great Barrier Reef pontoon launch

John Wright, 53, has moved bigger loads in his lifetime in the heavy haulage game. But when it comes to the most rewarding project, the second-generation house remover, and owner of Queensland House Removers (QHR), is hard-pressed thinking of one that tops his haul of a Great Barrier Reef viewing pontoon in Bundaberg.

The giant Lady Musgrave Experience platform is owned by his long-time mate – and one-time QHR employee Brett Lakey – and for Wright that connection came with a whole new added layer of pressure.

“There’s a lot of money sitting on that trailer and it’s all on my back if something happens,” said Caboolture-based Wright, who admits to more than his fair share of restless nights in the build-up.

The first stage was the easiest part, moving the 11-metre wide, 27-tonne underwater viewing platform the 382km north from Hervey Bay to Bundy last November.

That was then joined together with the roof and main section in readiness for the big final 90-minute push from the construction yard to the launch spot on Burnett River.

Although the final stage of the operation for the QHR crew involved transporting the finished 37-metre pontoon just 2km, this was the bit that kept Wright awake at night.

With all three components of the platform stitched together, the total weight was a top-heavy 54-tonnes, requiring just the right rig and trailer combo to negotiate the many tricky twists and turns with the 13.5-metre span.

That meant a four-axle steerable MTE trailer that stretches out to 25.5m on the deck, towed by a Mack CH with a 18-speed main and a two-speed Joey Eaton behind that.

“It’s not the biggest truck in the fleet but we had to use a smaller one so it went in underneath, the truck was more or less right under the whole load,” said Wright.

“And it crawls along slower than you can walk, and you get good manoeuvrability with the MTE…really good.”

With three light poles removed to pave the way – Wright had recced the route four times previously with tape measure in tow – everything went to plan on the day with Lakey’s young son Oscar riding shotgun in the Mack cab.

Staying in first gear the whole way, the giant load made light work of the traffic islands and other obstacles, with the only anxious moments over the 90-minute haul for Wright coming when the trailer started to get a bit bogged over a footpath.

“The boys and I had a couple of beers after this one, that’s for sure,” said a relieved Wright, honoured to have played his part in realising his mate’s dream of launching a world-class tourist attraction.

“The crew work really hard and they did an amazing job.”

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