Friday, June 29, 2012

Multi Modal Project Freight Forwarding Jobs Are Rarely Simple

Tuscor Lloyds Overcome a Rash of Problems to Complete Another Environmental Success
Shipping News Feature

US – EUROPE - There are often factors which influence the movement of oversize pieces of cargo which simply cannot be foreseen and often, when a multi modal job starts to go wrong, the whole thing can unravel leaving the shipping line, freight forwarder and road haulier all tainted by failure to complete on time. Project forwarding is really about overcoming the problems which arise during transit and overcoming them to the satisfaction of all concerned – particularly the customer. The latest major undertaking by Manchester based Tuscor Lloyds provides a good example of how the key ingredient in a successful out of gauge movement is the factor money can’t buy – experience.

Following the successful transfer of a huge biomass boiler from the manufacturer in China to the customers' half finished power plant in Venice, Italy, Tuscor Lloyds in house boiler expert (or glutton for punishment) and project manager, Neel Ratti was despatched to the USA to oversee the movement of a similar item from Lincoln, Nebraska to its eventual destination as the centre piece of a green power plant which will utilise organic, recycled biomass material as fuel, in Plymouth, England.

The unit which may not look much in our caption photo but does in fact weigh 75 metric tonnes and measures 13.5 x 4.8 x 3.8 metres, was produced by a specialist manufacturer and loaded to a 13 axle, 45 metre, low load trailer. The first leg of its long journey was to be on the highways of the USA, an 1100 mile road trip across four states through the notoriously stormy 'tornado corridor'. After some trouble with mechanical faults on the trailer and a blow out along the way (try changing a flat tyre on a low loader with a 75 tonne payload!), the unit finally made it to the Port of Houston right on time.

At this point the situation began to deteriorate with the plan being to load the boiler onto a container ship directly from the truck using a floating crane. Memories of China came flooding back however as the shipping line had failed to plan their port operations and the unavailability of the crane meant that they were unable to load on the planned vessel. Worse yet was the terminals' refusal to accept the cargo early for the next vessel a week later. Just as had happened in China the quandary was where to take the boiler for storage in time for the next vessel.

Various options were examined, and working with the team in UK, Neel arranged for the cargo to be taken to a different terminal at short notice. Changing US road permits and altering the route for a 60 metre long convoy is of course no easy task. Using a variety of arm-twisting techniques and frantic arrangements on both sides of the Atlantic the line accepted the cargo early for a conventional vessel leaving at a suitable time at which point Lady Luck began to smile again.

As it happened the ETA in Europe was scheduled at just the right time to suit the receiver in UK and upon arrival in Houston the trailer was repositioned using a MAFI terminal tractor and the boiler then unloaded from the truck utilising the ships crane using 2 spreader beams supplied by the port at the last minute. The entire operation including the positioning of dunnage on board was completed in less than 30 minutes leaving only the securing and lashing on board by the stevedores under the supervision of the cargo superintendent and the surveyor employed by Tuscor Lloyds to oversee the operation.

The heavy lift conventional freighter which transported the boiler from Houston to Antwerp was an ideal choice being tailored to handle such cargoes with ease and, as it turned out, the slightly longer transit time suited the customer as the electricity generating station being built in Plymouth was not ready to receive the unit any earlier. This allowed Tuscor Lloyds to keep costs to a minimum whilst working within a tight budget with no room for manoeuvre.

So to ensure the satisfaction of the end user, the Manchester based project cargo team used all possible methods to ensure the boiler arrived quickly. The company applied previous knowledge and experience of complicated multimodal shipping to do this, coordinating a direct discharge from the vessel straight onto the truck. Despite the weekend working, all paperwork and permits were arranged so that the boiler could get straight on the road to Zeebrugge for the ferry. The second specialist trailer which pulled the load from Antwerp made excellent progress and despite speed and driving hours’ restrictions, making it to the ferry and crossing the channel overnight.

Once in the UK, the unit was once again subject to severe road restrictions but the truck managed to arrive on site in time and the cranes already in situ during construction of the new plant were able to unload the boiler and position it where it will sit alongside the wind turbines which will make the plant as environmentally friendly as possible.