Failed to Look before Leaped

It is no secret that any logistics company shall carefully work through the route before agreeing to transporting a very heavy and expensive load, especially in an unknown country. But there are exclusions, when a company sets to a contract execution clearly without due evaluation of route obstacles. Our story will tell about what it may lead to.

red and blue cargo containers

Several years ago it was required to deliver equipment to Sredneuralskaya GRES located in the remote part of Russia not far from large industrial city Yekaterinburg. Spanish engineering company Iberdrola ordered transportation of the lot (General Electric turbine weighing 302 tons and the generator weighing 238 tons). The items had to be delivered from France to the construction site of Sredneuralskaya GRES new unit.

The Spaniards invited Panalpina, Switzerland, to this project. Their consent is the strangest side of this story. At the time they did not have any representative offices in Russia with the nearest office in Kazakhstan employing only American and English specialists. We do not know how they planned to carry out the hardest project in the country they were not familiar with.

Clear enough that this was pure gamble, but they were led by the Napoleon principle – “rush into battle, and we’ll see”. At first everything seemed not that difficult: the cargo was successfully unloaded in the Port of Saint-Petersburg, loaded on the barge before the navigation period end and sent along Russian inland waterways in the direction of Sverdlovsk Oblast. Panalpina managed to deliver the items to Verkhnechusovskiye Gorodki, a place on the Chusovaya River (120 kilometers from Perm). There the equipment was discharged and placed on the quay. With no further waterways available, the only way of transportation was haulage.

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For this to take place, Panalpina needed to approve the haulage detailed plan in the local motorway department. However, the officials were truly apprehensive about the turbine transportation, as it could result in damage or destruction of utility lines along the way. The proposed variant of bridgework weight reduction by removing asphalt and concrete was declared inappropriate by the department. Furthermore, many bridges were weakened, their maximum carrying capacity being 80 tons and less. They indeed could collapse under the cargo weight.

3 months of approval went by, but the negotiations ended in nothing. Also, activities necessary for proper haulage (reinforcing the bridges, laying new roads, relocating utilities and so on) called for serious expenditure of €8 million. This budget was not approved by the Client. As a result, Panalpina failed to break this deadlock and simply washed its hands: left the units on the river bank and dropped out of the “game”, terminating the contract (please note that there was no impairment, except for reputation).

The winter was coming. Iberdrola had nothing to do but try to save the unique cargo and find a new carrier. So, the equipment costing tens of millions of Euros was put into temporary storage area – run up shed fitted with diesel generators and air heaters. The items were stored there for almost a year.

Iberdrola finally managed to find a company that offered comparatively inexpensive and practical way of moving the cargo – STS Logistics. It proposed the following option: load the equipment back on the barge and return to Perm to unload it and use the railway for further carriage.

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Project implementation was launched in May 2009. Relatively short route section, given Russia’s immense territory, had to be fully made over. 2 parallel railway spurs with a total length of more than 400 meters were built in the center of Perm almost from a standing stop to load the turbine and the generator. Complete survey and repair of more than 450 kilometers of the railway section were carried out. Along the entire route semaphores were replaced, and posts and structures that could hinder the loaded cars’ passage – removed. Part of the railway had to be broadened by means of rocky soil excavation.

Against the order of STS Logistics, 2 special skids for carrying the turbine and the generator on railway transporters were designed and manufactured in Kazakhstan, the berth on the Chusovaya was upgraded, and a brand new quay with cargo transfer site was built on the Kama River in Perm. The outsized load called for design and production of heavy-duty loading gear. For the first time in our country, two 250-ton railway cranes were used in tandem to handle the bulky turbine and the generator. Railway transportation became one-of-a-kind and unparalleled in Russia. Two 28-axle articulated transporters (length – 45 meters, height – 5 meters and width – about 8 meters) were simultaneously used for it to occur.

Certainly, moving such items required a broad range of activities to agree upon railway, water and motor traffic. For this purpose, the railway administration made up a special timetable, taking into account passage of passenger and freight trains. Total expenses for preparatory measures amounted to €2 million.

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The final stage of this project included mounting the turbine and the generator on the foundations in the power unit building. The project was designed by SpetsStroyMash, Yekaterinburg. Heavy-duty mobile gantry system with the lifting capacity of 1,000 tons was used to solve this task. It contributed to successful completion of this unrivaled initiative. The system was presented by Beck & Pollitzer SPb. The project also involved hydraulic jack Hydrospex SBL 1100, maximum lifting capacity of which comes up to 1,000 tons and maximum lifting height – 12 meters.