As with any specialised, high-tech equipment, a helicopter needs to be shipped with the utmost care and consideration for the safety of the cargo.
When the Copenhagen office of Swiss forwarding company, Panalpina, started looking for a supplier to carry a shipment of helicopters from Sweden to the USA, it needed one that could offer a reliable, top-quality ocean service, combined with the specialist cargo-handling expertise needed for this kind of assignment. The choice soon fell on Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics and Motorships – WWL’s agent in Denmark.
“As forwarders and specialist transporters, it is our opinion that RoRo shipments offer a higher standard ofsafety than ‘general cargo’ shipments onLoLo vessels,” says Panalpina’s Head of Panprojects in Denmark, Jan Hjorth. “For me, the key safety factors are slow, careful cargo handling, along with the ability to pay close attention to the loading operations.”
“As with any specialised, high-tech equipment, a helicopter needs to be shipped with the utmost care and consideration for the safety of the cargo,” he adds.
Panalpina’s Helicopter Shipping Division in North America was contracted by one of its regular customers to move a shipment of helicopters from Gothenburg, Sweden, to the US west coast. Together with its partners at Panalpina Panprojects Denmark, Panalpina “Heliship” developed a creative solution for its customer based on WWL’s RoRo service.
Although the aircraft are between 35 and 40 years old, they are in very good condition and able to lift extremely heavy loads – making them ideally suited for use in rescue activities, such as fire fighting, and construction projects, including logging in remote locations.
“This is an unusual type of helicopter, with a high lifting capacity and particularly large fuselage. We had to request a lot of dismantling before the aircraft could be moved by road to the port of shipment and on to their final destination in the United States,” explains Hjorth.
“The height of the fuselage also presented the most significant challenge in terms of shipping,” he adds. “Even though we devised a dismantling plan together with the owner, the height of the helicopters threatened to create a logistical nightmare, as the door openings at the rear of many vessels were not high enough to fit them.”
Jan Hjorth goes on to explain that it was Panalpina’s contact at Motorships, Philip Bronee, who initially suggested that WWL’s super-low mafi trailers – with a height of only 0.45 metres – could provide a solution to the problem.
WWL and Motorships were awarded the contract and the super-low trailers were ordered from WWL’s terminal in Bremerhaven.
However, in preparation for the first shipment, WWL’s team in Gothenburg realized that the mafis needed to be modified, in order to support the three resting points of the helicopters. They engineered and carried out the necessary adjustments at very short notice and were ready to load the first three helicopters as scheduled, on 22 February.
Lasse Olsen, Line Manager at Motorships Denmark, travelled to Gothenburg with Panalpina’s representatives to watch the first helicopters being loaded onto the MV Mignon.
“It was exciting to see how it all happened,” recalls Olsen. “Even though the space between the top of the helicopter and the vessel door was very narrow at times, it was handled with the greatest of care and confidence by the stevedores and vessel crew.”
Jan Hjorth confirms that both Panalpina and the end customer are satisfied with the outcome of the first two shipments.
“The two shipments were completed smoothly and without undue complications,” he says. “Moreover, when issues did arise, they were dealt with in a very swift manner.”
“I’m very impressed with the work carried out by WWL and Motorships, as well as the terminal teams and vessel crews, on this assignment.” he concludes.
About the cargo
Six helicopters have been transported from Gothenburg, Sweden, to Tacoma, USA, in two separate shipments. Standing tall at 4.25 metres, each helicopter weighed approximately 9.5 tonnes and accounted for 130 m3 of space on board. The height of the units created a major challenge for stevedores during loading and discharge. The problem was solved using WWL’s super-low, 0.45-metre mafi trailers, on which the helicopters were transported all the way from loading at the Port of Gothenburg, through to transshipment in Zeebrugge and final discharge in Tacoma.