How to handle heavyweight shipments

Cathay Pacific Cargo’s Mumbai team is making light work of big shipments for the oil industry

Many surprising items travel by air but air cargo can be expensive compared to other modes, and it is sold by both weight and the space occupied. So a request for 13,000kg air cargo shipment for one item occupying more than four main deck spaces is quite the request.

This particular heavyweight shipment was a gas turbine engine. Equipment like this often generates the power supply for rigs, and this one needed to get to Houston, Texas for repair and servicing.

It’s not that unusual for the oil industry to make use of air freight for hefty gear. Anything that halts oil production costs money, so time is often of the essence, even for big pieces of equipment that at first glance would be more at home on a ship.

Back in 2012, an oil client made full use of the nose door on Cathay Pacific Cargo’s Boeing 747 to load part of a drilling rig that weighed 43 tonnes (see page 18 of the Cargo Clan shipment story here). More significantly, it was around 25 metres in length, which called for an enterprising use of loading equipment. Ten years on, Cathay Pacific Cargo’s expertise is, if anything stronger.

‘We have been handling these shipments for some months now, and there are more engines planned for overhaul in the US,’ says Arpan Heryani, Area Cargo Manager Western India. ‘This particular shipment was just the one piece weighing around 13 tonnes and taking up 582x274x269cms. Our Cargo Sales Support Executive Pritesh Nardhany was the point of contact for the agent and assisted them from the booking stage, keeping them updated until the shipment arrived in Houston.’

An out of gauge gas turbine shipment on a Cathay Pacific Cargo Boeing 747 freighter

Outsized and ‘dangerous’

Apart from the size, this was also a dangerous goods air cargo shipment, having special codes for ‘cargo aircraft only’ and ‘flammable gas’ (CAO/RFG). Cathay Pacific Cargo’s Expert LIFT product is designed for these big, fragile and unwieldy cargo loads, even if the Mumbai airport cargo terminal, which can be busy and congested.

One day ahead of loading, the team gathered to create a unique ULD with additional boards to contend with the engine’s weight, the distribution of that weight, and the sheer size of the consignment. The shipment was offloaded from the trailer of a truck on to the customised ULD with a crane, under the careful watching eyes of Cargo Services Manager Zubin Daver and Cargo Services Officer Hitesh Divecha.

A close-up of the strapping securing an out of gauge gas turbine shipment on a Cathay Pacific Cargo Boeing 747 freighter

The process was complicated by the congested infrastructure and limited space at Mumbai, which makes out of gauge shipments more challenging. But on the day, the loading was carried out according to Cathay Pacific Cargo’s industry-leading standards, with all the additional strapping required to contend with the weight to keep it in place over the wing box on the main deck of the freighter for the duration of the flight, and to centralise the weight distribution across four main deck spaces with an additional 56cm lateral overhang.

Ranjit Nair, Manager – Cargo (India) from JTB Jupiter Express Services India Pvt. Ltd, which handled the shipment, said: ‘Cathay Pacific Cargo’s handling team and freighter network made it ideal for this shipment. We always prefer working with Cathay whenever we require specialised solutions.’

Another big consignment for the Mumbai team handled the air freight with distinction.

Cargo by numbers

The heavyweight shipment, in some very heavyweight numbers.
Weight: 13 tonnes
Dimensions: 582x274x269cms
Main deck spaces: Four (with an additional overhang)
Distance flown: 11,000 miles