They wanted to move a column from Spain to Australia.

The ability to roll on and off a ship is not limited to automobiles. Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL) proves that every day with its RoRo vessels carrying, not only passenger cars, but trucks, heavy equipment, and a wide variety of project cargo.

But when Paul Van Heurck, Manager Sales & Marketing, Key and Liner Account Management for WWL in Antwerp, received an inquiry from Belgian heavy cargo handler Belfor Logistics N.V., he knew it was something new for RoRo.

“They wanted to move a column from Spain to Australia,” he says. But this was no simple structural column; 36 metres long and weighing 50,000 kilogrammes, the steel structure was a major part for a plant expansion by Solvay Interox, the world’s leading producer of hydrogen peroxide. Despite its massive size, it also had to be very carefully handled to avoid damage.

“Technically it was quite a challenge, because it was far bigger than any other single unit we had handled,” Van Heurck says.

After some research, WWL’s technical team found that handling the big column would in fact be possible; the solution was to construct two 30-foot roll-trailers equipped with turntables. A roll-trailer is like a massive flatbed trailer, built to securely hold and move large cargo up and down the ramp of a RoRo ship; the turntables allow the two trailers, one at each end, to rotate so that the extra-long column could be successfully maneuvered onto, and into, the vessel.

“The weight was not the main problem,” says Luc De Smedt, General Manager of Belfor Logistics. “The length was the critical point, because the column is fragile, and you have to support it in the middle during the ocean shipping part of the project. We contacted our friends at WWL in Antwerp, and they came up with a very good proposition to use turntables on small roll-trailers. I’m sure it was very expensive to manufacture, but it was a special solution that I’m sure there is a future for.”

Good timing also came into play, Van Heurck says. “The customer told us that the cargo would be ready to ship from Santander in August. Our ship, the M/V Tomar, was also scheduled to be in Spain at the same time.” WWL’s ships to Australia usually leave from Bremerhaven, Southampton, Zeebrugge, Le Havre and Gothenburg so this meant avoiding the added expense of shipping the column overland from Spain to northern Europe.

Once safely shipped to Australia, however, the job wasn’t finished. “We were responsible for everything all the way to the final destination in Sydney. We worked with a local subcontractor to come up with a specialised trailer to handle the cargo,” says Matthew Jackson, Key/Liner Sales Manager for WWL in Sydney. It took two days to travel the slightly less than 100 kilometres from Port Kembla to the site, due to the oversized load. “Road restrictions required that they only travel between midnight and 5 a.m.,” Jackson explains.

Overall, this oversize job was a success. For Van Heurck, it illustrates how WWL’s broad abilities make possible even projects never attempted before, and how teamwork pays off. 
And, adds Jackson, success on this project spelled additional business serving the same project. “While the first cargo was out of Europe, we were also able to pick up another large shipment for the project, this time out of Savannah, Georgia,” he says. “So it all led to a very positive outcome.”