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Big cargo, small room for error

Blog post   •   Aug 18, 2015 09:00 GMT

Panalpina had to operate with a steady hand earlier this year as it assisted in the transportation of some very delicate cargo. For the Ichthys LNG Project, several large air cooled condensers (ACCs) were carefully lowered into place. With a very restrictive error margin, the team had to make sure the lifts were conducted with absolute precision.

In a joint venture, two of Panalpina’s customers were awarded the contract to engineer, procure and construct the Ichthys LNG Project’s power plant, which is located near Blaydin Point in Darwin, Australia. Part of the facility is made up of ACCs, which directly condense exhaust steam from the steam turbines and return it to the boiler without water loss. Panalpina was asked to transport 18 units from the fabricator’s factory in the sea port of Phú Mỹ, Vietnam, to the site of the Ichthys LNG Project in Australia. The Ichthys LNG field itself is located about 220 km off the shore of Western Australia.

“We were preparing for the mission at least six months prior to the first shipment from Phú Mỹ – therewere a lot of challenges involved, and we wanted to make sure the customer’s needs were fully met,” says Steven Lofaro, head of Panalpina Energy Solutions for Australia and New Zealand. “Panalpina Australia worked closely with our colleagues in the Panalpina Transport Engineering and Marine Chartering teams in Singapore to ensure the cargo was safely transported.”

No twisting

Torsion and deflection, otherwise known as twisting or bending, were major challenges that the teams had to be sure they could avoid during transport, loading, off-loading and installation of the ACC units. The custom-built and very expensive units were sizable – measuring 27 m long, 14 m wide and 18 m high, and weighing approximately 210 t each. Yet despite their size, the structures were extremely delicate and excessive twisting or jolting during transport or handling could have caused them to buckle and break. There was practically no room for error and Panalpina had to work out detailed lifting and lashing plans before the mission began.
No contamination

Another important challenge that Panalpina had to be aware of was Australia’s strict quarantine laws. The risk of the cargo becoming contaminated prior to or during transit was high – Panalpina went to special efforts to ensure that, upon arrival in Australia, the ACCs would not be refused entry. Before the mission began, the Panalpina Australia team visited Phú Mỹ several times to develop a Biosecurity Management Plan (BSMP) with the fabricator.

“Ensuring the cargo was thoroughly cleaned and properly sealed before departure was one way we prevented any contamination, in addition to spraying the ACCs with a special solution to kill bacteria and small insects,” says Steven. “Spiders, insects, birds and other flora and fauna are hard to detect on cargo of this size, but thanks to our detailed quarantine plan, the ACCs were able to enter Australia without a hitch.”

The ACCs were too large to be transported together; instead, two heavy-lift vessels made a total of six journeys from Phú Mỹ to Blaydin Point between January and April 2015, each transporting three condensers per journey.

Top of the game

In a mission such as this, guaranteeing that the customer’s needs are met is paramount – and with time, cost, and cargo safety all top priorities for CH2M Hill and UGL JV, Steven and his team had the skills and experience to ensure everything went according to plan. After the first three ACCs arrived in January, it took Panalpina a further three months to deliver the remaining 15 units.

Each journey from Phú Mỹ to Blaydin Point took roughly seven days to complete; once the heavy-lift vessel arrived at the project’s custom-built materials offloading facility (MOF), it turned around and travelled back to Phú Mỹ to pick up another three ACCs. Once on dry land, Panalpina was also tasked with transporting the units to their required location onsite using self-propelled module transporters (SPMT). The end-to-end delivery of the ACCs was finally completed on April 21, although Panalpina continued to provide solutions to other parts of the Ichthys LNG Project.

“This really was a mission with a twist — not only was the cargo extremely large but it was also extremely delicate. It took some serious planning to ensure we were fully prepared,” Steven explains. “But when customers choose Panalpina, they choose a partner with an in-house engineering team who have the technical capabilities to manage and mitigate risk; they choose a partner with internal cargo superintendents who are hands-on with the freight throughout all stages of transportation.”

The Ichthys LNG Project marks Australia’s largest discovery of hydrocarbon liquids in over 40 years. The site, which is ranked one of the most significant oil and gas developments worldwide, boasts some of the biggest offshore facilities in the industry.