The versatility of Reid Lifting’s Porta-Gantry range has once again been demonstrated, this time during the heart-warming rescue of a seal pup trapped by boulders on a South Wales beach, which has since been successfully released to the wild.
The 5,000kg working load limit (WLL) gantry system was erected above the seal, nicknamed Miracle by volunteers, and levelled out on an uneven surface created by rocks on Aberavon Beach in Port Talbot. It was utilised to remove boulders, originally thought to be approximately 1,000kg in weight, which was the linchpin to the whole rescue operation.
Nic de Celis, a Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) inspector, said: “This was, unquestionably, the most technical rescue I have ever been involved with as an RSPCA inspector. The modular-type, specialist-lifting gantry was integral to completing this rescue. We now know the boulders that had to be moved to access the seal weighed approximately 3t. I was also amazed how straightforward it was for one operator to lift such a heavy boulder utilising this equipment. We're very grateful to the RSPCA’s Llys Nini branch, which kindly contributed funding towards the hire of the equipment. The whole rescue was a real team effort, and something I am immensely proud to have been involved in.”
The rescue was a multi-organisation operation involving Lifting Gear & Safety, from where the gantry was sourced; the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI); British Divers' Marine Life Rescue; Sea-Lift Diving Ltd.; Associated British Ports (ABP); and Neath Port Talbot Council.
De Celis continued: “RSPCA animal welfare officer Andrew Harris and I led and coordinated the rescue, with the specialist support of Sea-Lift Diving and a host of other agencies, to whom we're so grateful. Alongside my RSPCA colleague [animal collection officer Ellie West] we were determined to bring the seal to safety.”
Bryan Waddell, director at Sea-Lift, explained that mounting it on timber chocks levelled the gantry. The surrounding boulders were drilled and fixed into position to prevent cave-in during the rescue, which would have made it unsafe for the rescue team, put the seal further out of reach, and put the pup’s life in greater danger—or worse.
Gary Moorhouse, director at Lifting Gear & Safety, said: “The rescue team quickly identified a need for an overhead lifting solution to remove a large boulder and a crane wasn’t an option due to the nature of the location and environment. They suspected it would be about 1t in weight but they opted for our 5t system to give them plenty of capacity to work with. We frequently supply Reid’s gantries for diverse applications, but this was the first time that one has been used for a wildlife rescue such as this.”
Nick Battersby, managing director at Reid Lifting, a manufacturer of lightweight gantry and davit cranes, said: “Further to the versatility demonstrated by such a unique application, the seal pup rescue also showcased how a rapid response to an emergency or unscheduled situation can be delivered to an end user through our rental partners. It is also uplifting that the Porta-Gantry is now associated with a human interest story that led to the rescue of a seal pup that captured the hearts of everyone involved with the project—and further afield, as local and national media covered what turned out to be a significant rescue operation.”
It’s not clear how Miracle, thought to be stuck for at least two days, became stranded beneath the boulders; it had got itself trapped, say, 10 ft. from the surface. One media report suggested it was startled by something and took shelter in the rocks. An area of the beach was sealed-off whilst Reid’s gantry was brought in and the site secured. Once freed, the seal, which appeared to be unharmed, was taken to a special sanctuary in Taunton, Somerset.
De Celis concluded: “Moving the boulders was essential in allowing us access to rescue this animal; I’m not sure how else we could have done it, particularly within the timeframe we needed to do it in. When performing a rescue, time is of the essence, as animals can become stressed or suffer due to lack of food and water. Therefore, the outcome could have been very different if we either could not have gained access, or if it had taken too long to do so. I take personal satisfaction that the rescue plan came together and that Marina, aka Miracle, has now been successfully released at Combe Martin on the North Devon coast, along with a number of other seals.”
Sea-Lift’s Waddell added: “We were indebted to a local person who supplied 8 ft. plywood sheets to create a safe pathway [to the site]. I have used such gantries before and know them to be lightweight and versatile—ideal for the job in hand. LGS [Lifting Gear & Safety] were very helpful, as usual.”
Lifting Gear & Safety stocks Reid Lifting’s Porta-Gantry range from 1t to 5t capacity.