ITALY'S RECORD breaking Messina bridge will overwhelm global suspension cable production capacity, manufacturers warned last week.
The combined capacity of the handful of specialist firms capable of producing such cables is still less than would be needed to supply the 3.3km span bridge, they said.
Barry Mordew of British manufacturer Bridon issued the warning at a UK Department of Trade & Industry seminar on the project last month.
There is just a handful of international cable suppliers - Bridon in the UK, and firms in China and Japan. Chinese manufacturers are focused mainly on the domestic market.
Firms will have to be 'banded together' as joint ventures or they will have to invest heavily in new plant, said steel bridge contractor Cleveland Bridge's technical development manager Richard Hornby.
If built the Messina crossing will be the longest suspension bridge in the world, 1.3km longer than the existing record holder, the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in Japan, which has a main span of 1,991m.
The Italian government is expected to invite tenders for construction before the end of this year.
Messina will have four main galvanised steel suspension cables, measuring 1.24m in diameter. Combined, these alone will weigh 166,000t, excluding hangers.
Main cables for Japan's Akashi Kaikyo crossing weighed a comparatively modest 48,000t.
NCEI understands a firm like Bridon would have to spend between US$8M and $16M on new plant to give it enough spare capacity to supply half of Messina's requirements.
Messina will provide a long - four year - contract for cable suppliers. Extra capacity is expected to be redundant after that unless there were to be a major upswing in demand.
Spinning the cables between the Messina towers will be carried out at normal rates of output.
But the large scale of Messina will require contractors to design and build bespoke equipment, Hornby added.
Andrew Mylius INFOPLUS www. nceplus. co. uk/magazine go to infoplus box