Everything about the Liebherr Group is enormous. The German equipment manufacturer based in Switzerland had a turnover of around EUR 8.9 billion in 2013; it is the largest crane company in the world; and it makes mining equipment and aircraft parts, the majority of which are also huge. Shipping the company’s gigantic equipment around the world can be tricky, especially when deadlines are tight.

Case in point: In October, Liebherr needed to move an R9800 Mining excavator from its factory in Colmar, France, to Durban, South Africa. The machine had been sold to Kumba Iron Ore, a leading supplier of high-quality iron ore to the global steel industry. In total the excavator weighs 850 tonnes and, even when disassembled, components are up to 11 metres long and more than 4 metres high.

While the sheer size of the excavator presented its own unique set of problems, the difficulty level of this project was compounded by the cutoff point set for the arrival of the equipment to the job site. Strict transport regulations in South Africa had created a tight shipping window, forcing Liebherr officials to find a solution that could get the excavator to their customer quickly and safely.

 “Liebherr Mining Machines are high quality products that require specific care during the logistics processes,” says Alain May, General Manager of the Transport Department, Liebherr Mining Equipment Colmar. “Any delays in delivery would affect the mounting time for the equipment and thus suspend production, creating costly downtime. “

 With a relationship that stretches across three decades and all over the world, Liebherr partnered with WWL and WWL ALS to get the equipment from Colmar to Durban

 “Today and certainly for the next few years, the global supply chain is the first ‘key-factor’ that the mining industry should address and improve,” says May. “Relying on the strength of WWL’s global network helps us deal with any supply chain issues, like this one, confidently.”

 The first issue to address was the timetable.  In order to get the cargo to the South African job site ahead of the deadline, WWL and WWL ALS worked in close collaboration to first move the massive excavator overland from Colmar to the river port in Strasbourg, France. The cargo was then loaded onto a river barge, which arrived in Zeebrugge port on time to be loaded onto the WWL’s vessel M/V Tortugas.

 From there, WWL officials had to fit the unusually large item into the vessel. The height restriction on all WWL vessels is 5.2 metres and the height of the tallest piece of the excavator was 4.4 metres. With its variable height, the MAFI trailer was able to fit the excavator and its components safely on board, allowing for the Tortugas to sail to South Africa

 “Choosing the right service providers for a long-term partnership will help to secure and improve our market share going forward,” says May.