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Big Challenge: The art of transporting oversized cargo

Standard delivery takes a few days or in best cases just a day. But what about not-so-standard deliveries? Well, that may take a few years – at least when it comes to the highly sophisticated planning and transportation of oversized loads.

DHL Global Forwarding Industrial Projects (IP) handle very large break-bulk projects involving complex logistics, which can go up to a hundred meters in length and over a thousand ton in weight, and for which the execution can extend over several years. 

Typically, these projects entail delivery to remote places, unlike general cargo which is moved from warehouse to warehouse. There is no room for error or delays with the cargo because the customer may lose millions of dollars a day.

What exactly are we talking about?

Tunnel boring machine

Every project is sophisticated and comes with new challenges. It took seven months of planning and execution for the Turkish IP team to transport a gigantic, disassembled, out of duty Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) inside the narrow passages of a subway construction site that is 50 meters below the ground of Istanbul. The TBM units were 6.75 meters in diameter and had gross weights ranging up to 197 tons per single unit. Working underground means constant flooding, mud, limited lighting, and no phone reception. But that’s not where the challenges ended!

In the middle of this underground route, each TBM unit had to be rotated precisely for 90 degrees on greased steel plates to enter the intersecting passage. The intersecting passage had a 4% inclination that needed a special solution to stop the sliding of the TBM units backward on the rails.

Several gigantic crane lifts, plus a complex road and ferry transportation later, the TBM units were delivered to a satisfied client, safe and sound.

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Wind blades

What does it take to transport 84 wind blades from Brazil to the US? The IP team in Brazil can tell all about it as they were part of the largest such operation carried out in the country.

In addition to the high value, the blades were 54 meters long and weighed more than 12,000 kilograms (read: super massive). The team undertook detailed preparation to devise a solution that involved transporting the blades in sets of six via road to the port, traveling at low speed using special extensible trailers, and two extra-long cranes to complete the safe loading operation of all 84 wind blades onto a single ship.

Year by year, wind turbines become taller and the blades longer, so the future holds even more sophisticated transportation solutions.

Waste heat boilers

The mammoth project of transporting four heat boilers from Germany to Saudia Arabia by land, sea, and air was quite a big task. So big, in fact, that the world’s largest cargo aircraft, the Antonov AN225, had to be deployed. During the entire journey, the boilers moved with the help of a 1,000-ton mobile crane, a barge, and a heavy goods transporter with 20 axles and a weight of around 275 tons.

There’s no other way around of using the special equipment during the entire voyage: measuring 3.7 meters in height, 4.1 meters wide and 19 meters long, each waste heat boiler was about as heavy as 24 full-grown African elephants. — Meribel Sinikalda

Published: January 2019

Images: DHL; Claudio Ramos, Isis Evangalista, Danilo Santos, Uygar Ozcan and Burak Yilmaz

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