The success of this project has been down to a high level of global cooperation.

Global demand for energy continues to rise and industrial gas turbines play a vital role in the development of oil, natural gas and power generation projects around the world. These products also have other applications such as creating clean power for manufacturing chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and food products. 

In this highly competitive industry, Solar Turbines is a world leader with specialist skills developed from the early days of jet propulsion and the aerospace industry. Headquartered in San Diego, California, Solar Turbines sells and services its products from over 30 worldwide locations and is one of the largest exporters in the United States, with more than 70 percent of its products being sold abroad.

One of the key factors in Solar Turbines’ global success is its focus on quality through a “Six Sigma” culture of continuous improvement with a clear focus on customer satisfaction and business success. Working within this culture, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL) has recently secured three important contracts to ship turbines out of the US to Solar Turbines’ customers around the world.

Gia Merrill, WWL Account Executive, says working with Solar Turbines enables the WWL team to demonstrate the quality of its processes and also the flexibility of its logistics solutions.
“These cargoes are not only large and heavy but we also have to coordinate shipments from two different loading ports to arrive at the end customer, on one ship, on time and within a quality-driven business culture,” she says.

Solar Turbines manufactures its core turbine power units in San Diego and they are then transported by road trailer to Long Beach, California, as the nearest port of loading. Meanwhile, a second key element of the cargo, the power control room, is sourced out of Houston, Texas, and loaded on board a vessel in Galveston on the Gulf Coast.

Both major components, and all the ancillary parts, need to meet in Manzanillo, Panama, before being loaded together on a single vessel bound for the final destination.“

All these parts, maybe about 30 total pieces, are going to the same place and they need to arrive at the same time,” explains Merrill. “We need to find suitable vessels, sailing at the right times, based on the production schedules we have been given, to combine in Manzanillo. It sounds relatively easy but, weighing in all the factors, it can get a little crazy at times!”

Solar Turbines’ commitment to quality means its own appointed in-house surveyor is required to be present at all stages of the load and discharge to ensure all the parts are there and to check the safety of the cargo for the next leg of the journey.

“The challenge with loading the Solar cargo is primarily one of weight,” explains Merrill. “The last mobile power unit we shipped was around 70 tonnes and there are three or four of those in each shipment.Then there are the 30 or so boxes of ancillary equipment which need to go with them.”

While the ancillary equipment can be fork-lifted, the heavy power units and control rooms are shipped and loaded using custom-built RoRo trailers supplied by Solar. Although these are ideal for WWL vessels, their size and length – a typical trailer is between 20 and 29 metres in length and the cargo up to 4.8 metres high – means extra care has to be taken to avoid dragging on the ramps.

And, of course, the quality processes in place at the port of load also have to be followed at discharge, whether in Australia or the Middle East.

“The success of this project really has been down to a high level of global cooperation within the Solar and WWL teams,” concludes Merrill. “As far as we’re concerned, Solar is looking for a quality service; we’re working with them and that’s what we provide.”