AAL Shipping has recently transported eight giant juice tanks safely on a single sailing from Taicang Port in China to Setúbal in Portugal, 50 kilometres south of Lisbon for vessel conversion.
In a statement, the multipurpose project heavy lift ocean carrier said the tanks were transported on its 31,000 deadweight mega-size A-Class heavy lift vessel, AAL Kobe, and along its popular "Asia – Europe" Trade Route.
The cargo will be used in a vessel conversion at the Lisnave Shipyard.
AAL noted that the tanks were stowed on deck and extensive operational planning was required to address multiple operational challenges in the lifting and transport of these over-dimensional 150 tonne units, which each measured 12 metres x 12 metres x 16.5 metres and posed visibility restrictions on their journey.
They were safely discharged at the Portuguese shipyard, where they will be installed into a bulk carrier, transforming the vessel into a fruit juice tanker.
"We initially had to ensure that a specially designed lifting beam could in fact be aligned, connected, and lifted without mechanical support from the weather deck of the AAL Kobe to the tanks' trunnions located at 12 metres' height," said Yahaya Sanusi, deputy head of Transport Engineering at AAL.
"Thanks to both the vessel's outstanding crane height and tailormade lifting beam, we were able to stow the units successfully on deck."
Sanusi added that the goalposts then changed midway through the project, when AAL's initial discharge to quayside plan was replaced by a "more ambitious" proposal, involving the discharge of the heavy lift units directly to the soon-to-be-converted bulk carrier.
"After extensive modelling and risk assessment by our engineering team, the original plan was reinstated. We also had to overcome a very shallow vessel draft and other operational restrictions at port of discharge using extensive modelling, bathymetric surveys, and tides, mooring, and risk analyses."
Christophe Grammare, AAL's managing director, noted that with almost 95% of AAL's fleet now owned and controlled by the company, it can ensure that busy trade lanes — especially those that connect Asia, with key trading markets in Europe, the Americas, and Australasia — are served with the required frequency of sailings all year round.
"Additionally, we have boosted our engineering and operations capability across all key markets and time zones, and that is well demonstrated on this particular project, when rapidly changing operational criteria and local restrictions needed to be addressed at a local level and smartly," Grammare added.