Gobbins Coastal Path

The Brief

AW Solutions had an initial brief from McLaughlin & Harvey marine and civil engineering contractors to identify a suitably resourced and experienced specialist structural access sub-contractor to undertake the installation of 18 suspended footbridges on the high profile historic Gobbins Coastal Path (steep cliff face) in Co Antrim, N. Ireland.

The capabilities of IRATA level 3 rope access technicians differs like “chalk and cheese” when compared with your everyday rope access operative who cleans windows on a high rise building, for example.

This comparison goes a long way to explain the difficulty identifying the right contractor to assemble and install footbridges on an exposed and rugged coastal rock face.

The main challenge here was to install suspended footbridges, supported by anchoring into the basalt rock face, some 10 – 20 metres above the crashing waves on a cliff face that varies between 40 – 55 metres in overall height.

Materials and equipment could only be brought to the place of work from land and not by boat.

AW Solutions were aware that partner company Zenith Structural Access Solutions, were doing onerous rope access work on offshore oil platforms.

The Solution

After consultation with Zenith to agree a sequence of work, AW Solutions altered the project brief for McLaughlin & Harvey by replacing weather dependent and very expensive helicopter hire (£5,000 per day) with a mobile crane operating at the top of the rock slope lifting equipment and materials onto temporary loading platforms assembled at low level on the rock face by Zenith.

Highly skilled Zenith rope access technicians do footbridge assembly on the temporary work platforms and are in attendance for anchoring of the bridge supports into the basalt rock when the crane lifts them into final position.

Other activities undertaken by the rope access technicians include scaling of the steep rock face to remove loose rocks, anchoring and installation of edge restraint handrail and installation and anchoring of an access staircase.

The outcome is that AW Solutions working with Zenith Structural Access Solutions have both played key roles in delivery of a very challenging and high profile project – the re-opening of an historic coastal path and prominent tourist attraction to the public which was closed since 1954.