FROM MAGAZINE: Project Cargo: setting the blueprint for complex logistics operations in Africa

FROM MAGAZINE: Project Cargo: setting the blueprint for complex logistics operations in Africa

Complex logistics projects can seem like near-impossible marvels of organisation. In truth, while so called ‘project cargo’ operations are complex, they are made simpler by access to a global network and the creation of a blueprint for the international transportation of large, heavy, high value or critical pieces of equipment.

Thomas Okbo

As one of the fastest developing areas of the world, Africa holds immense potential. The continent has significant reserves of natural resources, from agricultural products, to precious metals and stones, and from rare earth minerals to oil and gas, which together help to fuel exports to global markets.

These sectors have long provided the backbone to Africa’s burgeoning economy, but the tempo is now rapidly shifting, bringing with it significant opportunities for players across the supply chain, and for the customers that they serve.

With governments up and down the continent promising to transform transportation infrastructure, supply chains across the region are expected to develop and modernise significantly. There has already been a steady growth in inward investment in recent years, and many logistics companies and service providers – including GAC – have been expanding their existing operations to meet the changing demands of customers in Africa. In addition to the requirements of ‘regular’ cargo shipments moving to, from and within the region, GAC also has the rare capabilities required by more unusual and complex feats of logistics prowess.

Although low oil prices have forced customers across the industry to put some larger projects on hold, there are still many industry sectors in which we see exceptional demand for project logistics, thanks in part on underlying economic growth and infrastructure investment in Africa.

To the uninitiated, complex logistics projects can seem like near-impossible marvels of organisation. In truth, while so called ‘project cargo’ operations are complex, they are made simpler by access to a global network and the creation of a blueprint for the international transportation of large, heavy, high value or critical pieces of equipment.

Demand for these services is growing rapidly in Africa. As a range of industries look to acquire new equipment from abroad, GAC will often step in from the planning phase to help arrange the acquisition, transport and delivery of important cargo.

These pieces of equipment take many forms. As the objects needing transport are large, heavy, high value or critical (to the project they are intended for) pieces of equipment, it is vital that a whole range of industries can trust in the people they charge with moving their goods.

Industries from agriculture and construction, to offshore and hospitality all require the services of a credible, trusted logistics provider with the international reach to be able to successfully plan and deliver such complicated cargoes. This is particularly true for the movement of out-of-gauge equipment and components for heavy engineering projects in such sectors such as pulp & paper manufacturing, mining, and construction.

Of course, project cargo operations aren’t just about the movement of over-sized industrial cargoes. Yacht transport is a very specialist subset of the project cargo world. In this area, all manner of yachts, superyachts and workboats are transported around the world by sea, land and sometimes air.

Moreover, GAC has a track record of complex project cargo operations around the world – some of which have received significant media attention.

For example, last year, the company transported the world’s biggest underwater restaurant – a 22.5m long and 410 tonne structure – from New Zealand to the Maldives.

The operation took 12 months of detailed planning based on GAC’s proven CAD-assisted lifting and lashing calculations to prepare the structure’s voyage.

At the time, the move of the massive load attracted the attention of local media in New Zealand and was widely hailed as a key example for successful project cargo work.

GAC was charged with the delivery of a very different but equally complex project. The company was responsible for transporting Van Gogh’s Ear from Europe to New York, where it is now on display outside the Fifth Avenue entrance to the Rockefeller Center.

At the time, it took all of GAC’s resources to transport the 3500kg sculpture from the factory where it was created in Poland to Manhattan. In this case, Masterpiece International, the art shippers, approached GAC with this opportunity.

Plans were drawn up to load the sculpture onto a low loader truck for the road trip to the German port of Bremerhaven, where it would be loaded onto a RoRo ship heading for New York City. Special permits were also arranged which covered the schedule for night-time movement and a police escort. Time was tight, as there was only one ship sailing out of Bremerhaven that would arrive in New York by the deadline, but it would be enough - just.

But when it became clear that Van Gogh’s Ear would not be ready in time, a new plan had to be drawn up at the last minute.

The sculpture was then redirected to Zeebrugge to meet the same vessel when it arrived at the Belgian port three days after leaving Bremerhaven. Restrictions still applied, with the loaded truck only allowed to crawl the 1300 km between the hours of 2200 and 0600, and an unplanned road closure meant it had to take a major diversion. All in all, the artwork arrived in Belgium just one day before the deadline.

The skills of being able to quickly come up with an alternative plan are fundamental to project cargo operations. These so-called ‘mega move’ projects are challenging, but surmountable, thanks to GAC’s global network and project management expertise.

So too is the ability to compete globally, to maximise profitability and ensure the long-term stability of operations. Moreover, this requires companies to operate efficiently, reliably and securely.

It is this efficiency, reliability and security that GAC are bringing to Africa. With offices in eight countries, and a presence stretching to almost every nation in the region thanks to affiliates and partners, GAC is one of the first global companies in logistics to have established itself as a key player for the continent.

When it comes to managing supply chains anywhere in the world, companies must have a trusted logistics partner on the ground with the resources, infrastructure, experience and qualified personnel to provide logistics and warehousing solutions that meet the exact needs of their business and their cargo.

This is certainly the case in Africa, where outsourcing part or all of a logistics supply chain requires engaging with a logistics provider with a strong presence across the country, with the ability to provide multi-modal support and the highest quality warehousing, freight forwarding and support services.

In this way, GAC is able to continue to support Africa’s growing demand as an important region for the logistics market.

The author Thomas Okbo is Group Vice President Africa, GAC

Photo Source: ©2016 Patrick King Photo for GAC