(www.MaritimeCyprus.com) One of the largest project cargoes ever to move through the port of Thessaloniki makes a special addition to the Cosmatos Group reference list, according to Elisabeth Cosmatos.
A project cargo of 82 units that embarked on its sea voyage from Greece to the UK in July called not only for Cosmatos Group’s extensive logistics experience and expertise, but the
flexibility to deal with circumstances that changed significantly since its original planning. For project managers at Cosmatos, the combined 963 tonnes (7,940m3) of cargo included
some of the largest individual loads 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 Cosmatos role as EKME’s primary special loads consultant.
Shipments have ranged from ex-works and FOB to DDP (delivery duty paid) and included
Naphtha Splitter columns for Corinth, and refinery equipment for France and Azerbaijan.
The 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 heavy-lift vessel Atlantic Dawn. The package 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 1830mm x 1060mm x 1010mm.
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. From then on, conversations quickly intensified between EKME, Cosmatos, Technip and forwarding partner DHL.
Change in circumstances
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
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.
Route planning urgency
With the pressure on, Cosmatos says 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 Cosmatos.
“But we were also holding weekly team meetings between all stakeholders to keep a close
eye on progress on the roadworks outside our control. Permit applications were prepared
for two routes, with a final selection made only two weeks before the transport date.
“Looking back from the perspective of a successful completion, planning episodes can fade
in memory, but this was an extremely challenging scenario; we joined forces with the team
at our primary road transporter Kroustallelis to find the solution.”
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
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).
Alternative stowage plan
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 Cosmatos.
Planning and executing the loading operation also demanded leadership and coordination across multiple parties, says Cosmatos, and she is also generous enough to acknowledge the strong contributions made by partner companies. “This was also a highly collaborative effort, and I’d especially like to recognise the support given by seAcure as risk assessor, by IMS UK as charterer’s surveyor, by ABL Group as marine warranty surveyor, and by the NAVICON SA welding team.”
“The penthouse units also needed lifting frames, which of course added weight at the point
of loading,” she 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.