More than one million electric cars are now on the world’s roads, and that number looks set to skyrocket in the coming years. To support the acceleration of the world’s transition to sustainable transport, a major new battery cell production facility is being built on the west coast of the USA by a pioneering automotive manufacturer.

The rationale behind the massive new facility is to achieve economies of scale and reduce the cost of production of the power source by as much as 35%. Once the production plant opens at full capacity in 2018, it will produce more lithium ion batteries annually than the entire global production of 2013.

Explaining the benefits of RoRo

The Japanese company supplying more than 1,000 pieces of hi-tech equipment for the California factory faced numerous challenges. They had no prior experience of RoRo transport and had complex storage requirements at both ends of the journey.

“With such a large order of complex equipment, the supplier was understandably keen to minimise the risk of delays and damage during the journey,” says Masaki Kunimatsu, Head of Japan Port Operations for WWL. 

An added challenge was that the manufacturer had no experience with the RoRo shipping concept.

“It was a good opportunity to spend time with the customer to explain the advantages of using RoRo over a container ship,” he explains. This in-depth education process demonstrated WWL’s experience in handling such bespoke cargo.

Specialised equipment for complex breakbulk

An experienced operations team planned and monitored every step of the process, while a range of equipment specifically designed to handle complex breakbulk was used at the ports in both Japan and California. This included 120 rolltrailers  and 350 bolsters. Bolsters are designed for smaller breakbulk that is not suited for direct stowage on the vessel deck.

Click here to discover the full range of WWL’s cargo handling equipment

Storage an important part of the process

The Japanese port of Kobe was chosen as load port for the first shipment because of its convenient location and ability to handle large and sensitive cargo in a safe and efficient manner. Equal consideration went into handling the cargo once it arrived in California due to the unique storage requirements of the battery cell making equipment. Approximately 16,000m2 of warehouse space was required.

Read more: WWL “breaks new ground” with heavy breakbulk shipments from Japan to the US

“One essential customer requirement was to provide a fully enclosed warehouse for storage in the port of Long Beach, which requires a great deal of coordination between the cargo operations and the cargo quality teams on both sides off Pacific Ocean,” explains Kenichi Yamada, Sales Manager at WWL's Nagoya branch. 

Minoru Odamaki, Account Manager Japan Sale at WWL in Woodcliff Lake, USA, adds “the collaboration and support from WWL West Coast Operations Team and our stevedore SSA (Stevedore Service of America) has been fantastic, which is vital for our ongoing success.”

A total of 19 shipments were made over the course of six months, with all cargo delivered safely and on-time.