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24 Oct 2023

When every detail counts

Windmill tower_01

Windmill towers are a frequently shipped cargo with SOL Breakbulk Services. These are sensitive goods that require extensive experience, attention to detail, and lots of coordination for safe and secure transport to the recipient.

For SOL, many transports of windmill towers are between Turkey, where they are manufactured, and Finland, where they are to be erected, 115,5 meters tall. The towers are booked on FIO terms (Free In and Out), and thus the shipper/receiver is responsible for loading and unloading. The towers are shipped in parts and are large tubes very sensitive to impact, so it's important that they are lashed and secured according to all the rules of art. This involves certain special solutions.

Preparation & Planning

Before lashing and securing the cargo, for example, you may need to weld lashing points and stoppers onto hatch covers, decks, and cargo holds to prevent the cargo from sliding, says Stefan Pettersson, Marine Operations Coordinator at SOL. Then it's important that the welding is done in the right places, so it's not done on a fuel tank or other places that are sensitive to heat, for example. SOL is also responsible for ensuring that the stevedoring is done correctly and also for removing the lashing points when the ship is unloaded. The ship's crew also checks for any damages during both loading and unloading.

The transport process itself begins with SOL receiving a loading and lashing plan from the shipper, and then sent back and forth to be finally approved by the ship. Once the loading plan is approved by all parties, it's handed over to the stevedoring company and the supercargo designated by the shipper. SOL also appoints an agent who handles the administrative aspects of the ship's call, as well as the communication between SOL and the stevedore/terminal. They also purchase the service to remove the lashing points. Before a ship comes in for loading, we gradually leave arrival notices to the agent, along with other information concerning the ship's call and loading. This is then conveyed by the agent to the relevant parties, says Stefan Pettersson.

Loading & Unloading

During loading, it's important that the crew and supercargo have good cooperation, so that the work can be carried out without unplanned interruptions. The same applies to unloading. Good flow is crucial. When the ship is unloaded, SOL takes care of the lashing equipment, in dialogue with the shipper, which can involve a lot of communication about logistics. If the captain is not satisfied, he calls me, and I contact the shipper, says Stefan Pettersson. Each cargo is unique, so you have to adapt to the situation. There, I have the advantage of having been at sea. Before I started in operations and cargo planning twenty years ago, I was a chief mate on Transatlantic, so I have an easy time envisioning different scenarios and an easy time talking to people on board and with supercargo. That's a big advantage in my job.

Keys to Success

Being proactive and being able to coordinate is crucial to succeed. Always predicting what could happen – and having a plan B in readiness. In complex transport missions, difficult situations always arise, but everything is solved with knowledge, commitment, and problem-solving. In the end, it's about coordinating with the port, ship, stevedore, agent, and terminal, so there's quick and efficient loading and unloading – and sea time, of course. It's operations – being the spider in the web. It's a long journey, and a lot can go wrong, so when everything falls into place, it's extra satisfying, says Stefan Pettersson.

Windmill tower
Windmill tower
Windmill tower

Breakbulk is all cargo that is not loaded in bulk or containers. It can be boxes, palletized goods, timber packages, paper rolls, steel coils/plates, rebars, wirerods or various project cargoes – and it's goods that are lifted on and off the ship with cranes.

© Photos by Christoffer Björklund

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