The need for wind farms, power plants, refineries, and mining operations is growing on every continent. As project managers prepare bids for these sometimes years-long, turnkey projects, transportation moves front and center. Mike Wilson, Director of Trade Development, Port of Freeport, has said that project cargo requires a different kind of thinking than other freight. “Planning initial moves, shepherding together shipment components from multiple vendors, overseeing the loading of a ship, tracking the vessel, and being there when it’s loaded—all of that requires more resourceful thinking than any other sector of logistics.” Being able to skillfully transport everything from raw materials to massive assemblies can help avoid unnecessary costs, risks, and delays.
A “project” refers to a wide variety of freight that is procured and delivered to a final location to meet a customer obligation or schedule. Items are sourced globally, consolidated, and transported. The manufacture of large, over dimensional machinery and subassemblies can take place anywhere in the world. Most project cargo has an over dimensional component. Turnkey projects for industries such as oil and gas, wind power, and mining that involve engineering, procurement, construction, and management (EPCM) require a higher level of transportation planning to complete the project on time and on budget. The value of such projects can exceed $100 million.
By definition, moving one piece of equipment from point A to point B, or several types of equipment from various global origins over several months, involves complex transportation variables. By following these best practices, project managers can reduce potential risks:
- Get transportation advice before making an EPCM project bid. Transportation details should be identified in the original scope and changes considered carefully for their rate impact. Transportation quotes are based on cargo size and other factors. If the dimensions change, or if manufacturing moves to another country after the bid is submitted, the rates could be significantly different, resulting in a cost overrun.
- When pre-planning, allow sufficient lead time to coordinate transportation details. A good transportation adviser can help determine whether it’s most advantageous to buy a unit and ship it intact, or break down the piece for shipment and rebuild it at the site. Developing route surveys, detailed bids, execution plans, documentation, and onsite project management details in advance can preempt issues, prevent cost overruns, and maintain cargo integrity.
- Develop contingency plans. Hurricanes can make it impossible to utilize specific ports; community concerns might require rerouting or a special plan for transporting heavy machinery. A transportation expert should have an alternate plan for every key juncture of the project, and for every product that cannot be easily or quickly remade or replaced if the original plan goes awry.
- Incorporate past experience. Project managers may be skilled at moving oversized and expensive shipments through mature markets, but they could have a lot to learn about emerging markets. Transportation experts can track what actually happens vs. the plan and suggest ways to improve the shipping process for future projects.
Transportation experts can help minimize insurance claims and damages. They can optimize vessel loading, balance, and discharge sequences, and suggest safety measures for lifting, lashing, and securing freight. The most important quality of all toward improving project outcomes may be their ability to provide effective ways to address unexpected situations, as needed.
To learn more about this topic, read our white paper, How Best Practices in Transportation Can Improve Project Cargo Outcomes.
Check out C.H. Robinson Project Logistics’ image gallery of project cargo photos from around the world.