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Greek project calls for Cosmatos Shipping

A project cargo of 82 units that embarked on its sea voyage from Greece to the UK in July called not only for Cosmatos Shipping Services extensive logistics experience and expertise, but the flexibility to deal with circumstances which changed significantly since its original planning.

The company is a member to the Worldwide Project Consortium (WWPC) for Greece.

The combined 963 tonnes (7,940 m3) of cargo included some of the largest individual loads with ever to move through Thessaloniki city centre, and one of the biggest to load at the port.

Given the close proximity of logistics provider Cosmatos and industrial plant specialist EKME, it is no surprise that the relationship between the two is longstanding, with successive projects deepening the Cosmatos role as EKME’s primary special loads consultant.

This July export cargo, a reformer package, needed to be moved ex-works for delivery to the port of Thessaloniki for loading FOB onto the 5460gt Ocean7 heavylift vessel Atlantic Dawn. The shipment was destined for the Technip Energy-designed hydrogen plant at Esso Petroleum Fawley, UK.

At Cosmatos, the load was identified early as one which would put the logistics ingenuity accumulated over the company’s 50+ year history to the test, according to Elisabeth Cosmatos, Managing Director, Cosmatos Group. “Even at the outset, it was clear that this project was going to create unique challenges, simply given the dimensions of the critical loads,” she says.

These consisted of three main penthouse units weighing 180.4 tonnes, 123.8 tonnes and 40.8 tonnes, plus an 85-tonne valve structure. The largest penthouse measured 18.3 x 10.6 x 10.1 m. Initiated in 2019, planning anticipated critical item movements by road from the EKME plant to the port being restricted to the early morning hours of the weekend and foresaw close cooperation with utilities to avoid disruption to local power and telecoms.

Like many things planned that year, scheduling to ship in 2020-2021 proved futile in the face of covid restrictions. With a subsequent and understandable slowdown in production and an untimely escalation in ship fuel prices, it was not until early in 2023 that the timing looked right to reschedule the load for shipment.

However, by the time of the scheme’s revival, other new and unforeseen challenges had emerged which had a direct bearing on the logistics operation.

“Conditions for transport had changed, with the logistics team needing to rethink,” says Elisabeth Cosmatos. “Upgrades were being made to some of the access roads on which the move would rely, including new bridge construction.” When municipal road works were still blocking access through one bridge along an essential part of the route one month before the load was due to move, Cosmatos was assigned by ExxonMobil to find an alternative.

With the pressure on, close collaboration with the client and other stakeholders was critical as the revised departure date approached, starting from the road move on the weekend of 1-2 July.
“A detailed route survey of civil works had established that backfill and levelling would be needed on part of the port road, which was done by contractors,” says Elisabeth Cosmatos.

Specific challenges remained for the road transit part of the project, which was restricted to weekend hours to avoid disruptions to the public highway. The project’s civil engineering partner, for example, was tasked with clearing away road signage to allow the load to pass.

SPMT (self-propelled modular transporter) type bogies were used during the transit, with the heaviest load needing support from 14+14 axles, working side by side.

After departing the EKME site on Saturday 1 July at 0700 hrs under police escort, the transit needed to pause at the halfway point overnight to allow the public power company to lift high voltage overhead cables. The local telecoms company also needed to lift cabling along the route before the move was restarted on 2 July, with delivery to the port completed by early afternoon.

Vessel loading was also limited to daylight hours on 3 July, in an operation completed that day (including limited slip differential welding).

Cosmatos Group also took a coordinating role in handling arrangements at the port, pre-booking the berth for Atlantic Dawn, as well as the temporary cargo storage area and yard handling equipment, while also liaising with stevedores on loading risk assessments.

Tight clearances onboard the vessel demanded “rapid coordination of all parties to amend the stowage plan on spot as per actual needs of space”, says Elisabeth Cosmatos.

“The penthouse units also needed lifting frames, which of course added weight at the point of loading,” Elisabeth Cosmatos adds. “The ship’s own NMF 150-tonne SWL cranes were used, with the heaviest load requiring a tandem lift, and I’d also like to acknowledge the smooth work of the owner’s appointed loading master.”

Following an inspection on 4 July, the vessel set out on its sea voyage, arriving in Southampton around noon of 14 July.