In the world of breakbulk, heavy cargo is part and parcel of daily life. If it’s not a 170 mega-tonne locomotive travelling from the US to Indonesia or a 35-metre deodoriser being shipped from Malaysia to Ecuador, it’s a 200-plus tonne transformer travelling across the Pacific.
Having worked on shipping vessels – both onboard and ashore – for the last 40 years, nothing much surprises me, particularly given my long career at Wallenius Wilhelmsen Ocean (WW Ocean).
Why is RoRo’s reputation changing?
What’s interesting, though, is the shift in perception of what can be safely and efficiently transported on RoRo vessels. Around the world, unusual cargo requests come thick and fast – and the expectation is that they can be met by the majority of shipping logistics companies using breakbulk vessels. What we’re able to do is meet such challenges using RoRo (Roll-on Roll-off) – traditionally thought of as being suitable only for automotive vehicles.
I’m based in Singapore and find it interesting that the kind of cargo we’re being asked to ship out of Asia has changed quite dramatically over the last five years. And what’s also changing is the fact that RoRo vessels – increasingly popular for their regular and fixed schedules – are now being used more and more to meet cargo demands.
In October 2018, for example, one of our biggest RoRo vessels – Parsifal – carried a 275-tonne rotor for a power plant in France that was at that time the heaviest cargo ever to be shipped from Japan.
How is WW Ocean meeting unusual cargo requests?
Our global teams, consisting of experienced mariner and naval architects, will reflect on each enquiry and calculate if we need to fabricate or adjust our handling equipment for specific cargo. In the Asia Pacific region, we have a wide range of vessels to choose from (130 in total), and are able to work with other Wallenius Wilhelmsen teams to ensure our globally-managed equipment fleet is being utilised in the best way.
From the perspective of manufacturers looking to ship heavy cargo across the world, the future looks bright, and our teams enjoy the fact that cargo requests are now more varied (and complex) than ever before. Apart from anything else, it’s immensely satisfying to see RoRo vessels leaving ports loaded with cargo that just a few years ago would have been deemed entirely impossible to transport.