On the one hand, we would be first to admit that this is not our mainstream business. Despite this, several members of…
When STG mean Turnkey, we mean Turnkey.
Whether it is a single package or a complete production line – one, many or all of the disciplines described above may come into play.
One thing is certain – however large or small the movement – it will be tackled with the same commitment, determination and enthusiasm.
If the transit time is important, or perhaps even critical, please let us know before the event (rather than after).
This could have a material effect on the final choice of method or route. The fastest route is unlikely to be the most economic and vice versa.
A case in point is a standard trailer to/from Europe – it can be unaccompanied (most economic) or driver accompanied (fastest) – it’s a straightforward choice.
Remarkably, with something time critical, dependent on the distance, a vehicle with two drivers could arrive faster (and cheaper) than air freight. Our record, some years ago, was the delivery of urgent parts for a “downed” drilling rig at Batman, in Eastern Turkey. Two drivers picked a third driver up on route, enabling a “non-stop” transit, stoping only briefly on route to refuel.
These skills really came into play with the delivery of a Winnebago to Baku, Azerbaijan – you’ve got a fortnight to get there, it’s a birthday present for someone!
STG Account Managers like nothing more than getting out of the office!
It may be to make 100% certain that the trailers have turned up on time, the correct pieces are being loaded to each trailer and run an eye over the paperwork. If the consignment is going by sea, at the departure port, making certain everything is safely loaded to vessel, with nothing left behind (not an uncommon occurrence). The same applies to vessels arriving in the UK – making certain that trucks are in attendance, to whisk the cargo on route to its final destination.
Thankfully, with mobile phones and laptops, whether they are on site, inspecting cargo or whatever – Account Managers are available to their customers, at all times.
N.B. With larger projects, particularly elsewhere in the world, STG have cargo supervisors on hand, to make certain everything goes smoothly. A case in point was a pharmaceutical plant from near Durban, South Africa to Northern Ireland – we don’t like to think what may have happened if he hadn’t been in attendance!
Although it happens only infrequently, there is always the situation where the manufacturer needs the consignment off his premises, except that the receiver is “not quite ready yet” to accept delivery.
If it is only a matter of a few days, the probability is that it is more economic to leave the cargo on the trailer(s) and pay demurrage.
However, if it is an extended period, despite the extra handling costs (off/on trailers), local storage may be the best answer – which then raises other questions. Does the consignment need to be under cover (i.e. in a warehouse) – are there labour, cranes and fork lifts on site or do these have to be specially arranged – is temperature or humidity an issue – if the cargo is case packed, can it be over-stowed?
All “problems” that STG have been asked to solve in the past.
As with Specialist Trailers, where do we start?
Is the requirement for an open trailer (flat), or a covered trailer (Euroliner)? If covered, will loading take place over the side (by fork lift), on a loading bay (via the rear door) or through the roof (perhaps by crane). Is the deck height, or the internal width or height important?
The nature of the cargo will influence the final choice – there is a world of difference between a row of pallets and, at the other extreme, machinery. In the latter case, point loads and the use of specialist lashing and securing equipment may have to be considered.
Before we go to work, let us know “the full picture” – it makes the world of difference.
Where do we start?
What is the main difference between a low loader and a semi-low loader? Does it need to be extendable? If so, does it have steering axles (in order to get into the tightest spaces).? How important is the deck height? Will the main deck take a concentrated load (or only a spread load). Is there space for ancillary equipment, presuming that the regulations allow co-loading. Does the trailer need a self load/self discharge facility? Does it satisfy all the regulations and authorities, in the individual countries, along the intended route?
In another league, highly specialist trailers include girder type (for large, cylindrical vessels), extendable width and length low loaders, with a protective canopy (for high value cargo) etc.
If it is in the mega-heavy league, say over 100tons, then modular trailers (with eight wheels per axle, as against the usual four) will be part of the equation. It’s just a matter of assembling the correct number of axles/modules, in order to come within the maximum axle load allowed.
These and many other questions come into play when choosing the optimum trailer(s) for the task. If it is a large consignment, with a mix of oversize and standard cargo, careful selection of the specialist trailers could result in a reduction in the overall number of standard trailers required – significantly reducing the total cost.
Unless advised otherwise, we always “assume” that there is suitable access, both at the collection and delivery addresses.
However, customers have an obligation to flag that there may be a problem – mainly because either “something similar” has caused problems in the past or this particular exercise has never been attempted before.
In either instance, a more “in depth” research may be the only answer – with the STG Account Manager carrying out a site survey – examining everything from the entry gate, to the path through the works, to under the crane hook.
With one particular customer, this is checked and timed “to perfection” – in order to minimise the risk of disruption to shift changes and material flows within their site, ensuring production is maintained 24/7.
In one extreme case, it was almost impossible to determine if the vehicle in question (grossly oversize) could negotiate the route within the site (a refinery) – to solve the problem, we went to the length of flying the actual driver in from Italy. Having spent several hours studying the problem, knowing the manoeuvrability characteristics of his truck, using a particular technique, a solution was in place – saving an inordinate amount in removing fixed obstructions – more than offsetting the cost of air fares etc.
Elsewhere we have dealt with Containers, Heavy Lift and Roll on/Roll off vessels.
We now move on to General Cargo and Charter Vessels, both of which play an important role as part of “the pool of resources” available to STG.
If, for whatever reason, the cargo cannot be containerised (sometimes purely because there isn’t a container service to the destination in question), then general cargo comes into play – with Antwerp being the logical port for larger consignments, to most places in the world.
Having said that, a small charter vessel may be the answer – from local port to local port, minimising the road distance involved – particularly if permits, escorts and the removal of street furniture are required.
A case in point was a consignment from Zaragoza in northern Spain, to the nuclear facility at Sellafield, in Cumbria. Using a charter vessel, direct from Bilbao to Workington, with shore cranes at either end, this was not only the most effective and secure solution, but also the most economic.
As long as we are one centimetre below the lowest bridge on route, all will be well. If we are one centimetre above the lowest bridge, we have a problem!
Thankfully, over the years, STG and their associates have built up a vast amount of data on the various routes available throughout Europe (and elsewhere), whether the cargo is over-length, over-width, over-height or over-weight – very often, a combination of several factors.
In the main, the authorities are able to draw on past experience – enabling them to issue permits without any difficulty, albeit this is a process that can take days and sometime weeks.
However, there is always the case where the data is not available or out of date. In this instance, a route survey may be necessary – measuring everything precisely, not only bridge heights but also strengths, acute corners, gradients etc – sometimes for just a few miles, occasionally over a much greater distance.
In one particular instance, the customer needed to know the highest possible cargo that could be moved from London to Madrid, allowing for the lowest possible trailer. This set in train a detailed route survey which, in turn, established that there were five specific bridges that set the bar. Using this as the parameter, with a small re-design to the cargo, the overall number of trailers needed for the project was reduced by 25%, more than justifying the initial investment in the route survey.
From the very smallest – possibly the Red Funnel service, joining the mainland to the Isle of Wight, to the very largest – the “round the world”, Roll on/Roll off services – STG has made “best use” of them all.
In the main, the cargo has always been mobile in some way, even if it is not self propelled – as long as it can be towed on/off the vessel.
Having said that, many services offer MAFI trailers – essentially ships trailers, able to accommodate static cargo.
Disregarding cross-channel ferries, its very rare nowadays to find a major port that does not offer a RoRo facility – to the point where STG have linked several services in order to reach the final destination – as in the case of earthquake supplies to Christchurch New Zealand, initially using RoRo services to Australia, followed by a service to the north island of New Zealand, followed by another service the south island.
Perhaps the most “high profile” use of river barges was in December 1999, when STG were responsible for delivering the capsules to The London Eye. Two Thames barges were especially modified for the purpose, towed by the tugs Mamba and Argonaut. More importantly, due to height restrictions (Westminster Bridge) and the tidal nature of the Thames, there was only a short time widow available each day – 16 voyages, for 32 capsules.
On an equally challenging project, when the French authorities were unable to grant permission for a movement by road into central Paris, there was only one choice – use of a barge on the river Seine. In point of fact fact, STG went one stage further and used an ocean going barge, with a hydraulic bridge – capable of being lifted and lowered as it negotiated its way up the river.
Other waterway projects have included Antwerp to Budapest, via the Danube – Basel & Gelsenkirchen to Rotterdam, via the Rhine – from Bratislava in Slovakia, on route to Retsina in Rumania, via the Danube – Hamburg to Melnik in the Czech Republic, to name just a few.
Some authorities, before permits are issued (for movement by road), insist that other options are looked into – rail being one choice, the other river. Equally, some destinations (particularly in Russia), have better rail connections than road, especially so in the winter.
Particularly with a larger consignment, over a greater distance, rail can prove to be more economic and equally effective. This proved to be the case with over-length fabrications to Almaty, Kazakhstan – where STG were able to monitor the progress of the rail wagons, on a day by day basis – knowing exactly where they were at all times.
Some port facilities are little more than a jetty, others have “everything under the sun”.
Is the quay long (and strong) enough, is there sufficient depth of water (draft), is the port tidal, how difficult is it to book the berth (congestion), are there cranes and fork lifts on hand or do they have to be brought in specially, what shift pattern do the stevedores work, does the cargo have to be discharged direct to trailers or is there a holding area, possibly short term storage – the check list goes on and on, particularly if several ports are under consideration, before a final choice can be made – disregarding the distance to the final destination.
Ranging from one of the smallest at Watchet in Somerset, to Europes largest at Rotterdam, STG have worked with many. On one project, for delivery to Komotini in northern Greece, to avoid a weak bridge, STG used a “beach landing craft”, as there was no local port/quay suitable!
We’ve always felt that the word Permit does not do justice to the documentation.
Whenever the cargo is oversize (i.e. beyond the dimensions/weight of a standard trailer/container), a permit is required – best described as a licence to move at the dimensions/weight declared, along the route specified, at the times stipulated.
The permit/licence will also specify whether multiple movements (using the same permit) are allowed, or just a single movement – whether two vehicles (or occasionally more) can travel “in convoy” – making best use of escorts etc.
Sometimes the date of movement may play a part. There is a world of difference between a movement mid-winter, when there are short daylight hours and adverse weather conditions – in comparison with the same movement mid-summer – long daylight hours and good visibility.
All of this disregards the cost – sometimes, effectively “free”, it’s just a matter of completing the necessary applications – at the other extreme, our record cost of permits was $26,000, for a single movement from one side of Russia to the other!
Is the consignment fragile or perhaps extremely valuable? Is it going to remain on the same trailer throughout or will it be trans-shipped?
It may be that no protection is needed. On the other hand, if a standard trailer is the order of the day, the trailers own canopy may be adequate. If it is an open trailer, but remaining on the same trailer throughout, limited protection using tarpaulin sheeting may sufficient (at a supplementary cost).
Beyond this, particularly via sea freight, we are probably then into the realms of full case packing – at not inconsequential cost. Do the cases need to be sufficiently strong to allow over-stowage, within the ships hold?
Does humidity or temperature come into the equation? On a co-related subject, is the cargo is susceptible to shock forces? Would it be advantageous to use a trailer equipped with air suspension? In one extreme case, the cargo was on its own air bed, on an air suspension trailer, with shock meters attached – together with a speed restriction and an advance pilot car, to warn the driver of any upcoming potholes – everything possible was done and more to minimise shock forces.
STG has experience of these and many other situations.
At STG we have a vast network of contacts and customers, primarily in Europe, but also throughout the rest of the world.
In the case of contacts, these could be primary services – i.e. providing trucks for a consignment from Pune to Mumbai, in India – to ancillary services – i.e. the name and phone number of a contact in the Bulgarian Ministry of Transport.
In the case of customers, it could be a regular customer i.e. one who imports machinery from Italy on a “weekly” basis – or a “one off” i.e. a customer in Adelaide Australia, who purchased part of a factory in Bangor, North Wales.
As a matter of policy, other than at Bedford, we do not have offices/agencies elsewhere in the world. Our philosophy is that, thanks to modern communications, we can be more “economic and effective” operating from a single office, with the added benefit of concentrating our experience in one place – disregarding the fact that it enables STG to be absolutely neutral, in every respect.
It may be a simple supply chain issue to an army base, perhaps to a peace keeping force or a conflict zone – STG have been involved in all three.
Sometimes it’s support vehicles (ambulances, aircraft refuellers etc), sometimes combat vehicles (armoured personnel carriers etc). Ancillary equipment has included a generator, urgently required for a Royal Navy aircraft carrier anchored off Athens (Ark Royal), naval guns for vessels under construction in Portsmouth, together with submarine periscopes to the Italian navy base, at Taranto – in the toe of Italy.
Perhaps the biggest challenge of all was the call that came through on a Friday morning – We need 54 low loaders in Plymouth on Monday morning, to deliver equipment to Cumbria by Tuesday afternoon, can you do it? Needless to say, even though it meant working all weekend, STG rose to the occasion – there was a sense of relief when the last trailer rolled in on Tuesday evening!
Whether it’s for the Army, Navy or Air Force – perhaps NATO or the USAF – to north of the Artic Circle (winter manoeuvres) or south into the desert (for training purposes), STG will always rise to the occasion.
Sometimes, it’s a matter of hours – sometimes it can take anything up to six months (or even longer) to make all the necessary arrangements.
Obviously, the more complex and oversize the movement, the longer it is likely to take to issue the necessary permits and authorisations (see elsewhere – Permits). Some countries work on a centralised basis, others on a regional basis. This leads to further complications in the sense that one region (county, prefecture, canton or whatever) may be able issue permits fairly quickly, another take considerably longer (perhaps because of road works, necessitating lengthy detours).
On this last subject (detours), on a project to Russia, due to a weak river bridge (on the most direct route), it added another 400 kilometres to the journey – not only for the vehicle but also the accompanying escorts, at not inconsiderable extra cost.
One thing is certain – the movement cannot get underway until the route has been approved and the necessary documentation issued.
For this reason alone, initial preparations should always start at the earliest possible moment.
In common with standard industry practice, STG have “limited liability” insurance, to a maximum claim value of £1,000,000.
What does this mean? In essence, if it can be proven that STG contributed to causing damage to the cargo, our insurers take over.
Despite this limited cover, we strongly recommend that customers take out “all risks” insurance. Assuming it is not already in place – the STG Account Manager would be pleased to arrange a policy through the company’s broker – Peter Lole & Co (www.peterlole.co.uk).
In many ways, the reverse of dismantling – with one possible exception.
Invariably – whatever the cargo, whether it is a single machine or several machines – in all probability, engineers, cranes, fork lifts or whatever, may need to be on site, to coincide with the vehicle(s) arrival.
Whilst there can be no guarantees, communication is key – keeping the customer advised honestly and reliably of progress is paramount.
Something that comes as “second nature” to the STG team.
Some time ago, we tried to compile a list of all the products (industries) that STG had been involved in over the years – we ran out at the hundred mark, and still had more to go!
Many were involved in manufacturing, whether light or heavy – ranging from computer chips, through car production to steel works. The energy market has embraced compact power plants (gas turbines), through to the largest, conventional power stations, including hydro. In more recent years, solar and wind power have come into the frame – not forgetting water power (archimedes screws).
At a more esoteric level – products that are unique, in other words “one of a kind” and therefore invaluable. It could be scientific equipment, for delivery into the CERN research establishment outside Geneva – or a sculpture, by Annish Kapoor, into the Royal Academy in Piccadilly.
Whatever the product, whatever the scenario – there has always been an issue that needed addressing – something that STG does – day in, day out…
In the vast majority of cases, shore cranes are more than adequate. However, sometimes there is a situation where the local port does not have the necessary facilities and, to make matters worse,
normally due to the strength of the quay, mobile cranes are not the answer – hence the use of heavy lift vessels, equipped with their own derricks.
On one project, involving a delivery into a refinery at Milford Haven, two other factors came into play. Firstly, there was a limited draft (depth of water). Secondly, the length of the vessel was important – given that it had to manoeuvre within the inner harbour.
Thanks to their contacts in the market, working closely with their agent in Hamburg – STG was able to compile a short list of possible vessels – it was just then a matter of finding one that was available on the date in question, before negotiating a competitive yet realistic rate.
All part of the skills profile at STG.
It could be as innocuous as a tin of paint, or an emergency flare – both are regarded as hazardous. At the other extreme, highly corrosive or even radioactive.
Whatever the situation, there are strict procedures and documentation. In one extreme example, STG were responsible for the delivery of an oversize, super-compactor – used for compacting radioactive waste – from the UK to Prague, in the Czech Republic, on behalf of the UKAEA.
In order to satisfy each transit country, not only were the usual precautions in place, including a panoply of escorts – but also a safety exclusion zone, in secure premises, at each overnight stop.
An exercise that took several months to set up.
It’s a small consignment, it doesn’t justify a full trailer, cost is important, the transit time is not hyper-critical.
If this is the case, then a pallet service, groupage or part load may be the answer. Thankfully, in large part, tracking systems will establish progress – even if this shows a short delay, as the cargo sits in a central hub, before completing the final stage.
This may be a small price to pay, if cost is an important factor.
Not to be confused with Route Surveys, which can be seen elsewhere.
The purpose of a Feasibility Study is to consider all the possible options – the various, alternative methods and routes. Some can be eliminated very early on, others require more, in depth, research – probably taking into account alternative, transit countries.
The one thing that is certain – a small investment at an early stage can reap dividends later on – more particularly in avoiding any subsequent, “nasty surprises”.
The phone call came in at 11.00 – We have a fuel tank for an Ariane rocket ready in Wolverhampton at 15.00 hrs – it will fit into a small van – it needs to be in Toulouse as quickly as possible – what can you do?
Within the hour, an express van was on route to collect – to be on the safe side, a second driver was laid on, ready to run “non-stop” through France – the arrival and hand over taking place in the early hours of the following morning!
Perhaps this was an extreme but, nonetheless, it does illustrate what can be done – if one puts ones mind to it.
In the case of oversize cargo, there comes a point at which the authorities insist on escorts – whether these are pilot cars (private) or police escorts. It could be because the cargo is over-length, over- width, over-height or over-weight – or a combination of several factors.
Just to complicate matters, the criteria vary from country to country and, in some instances, even from region to region.
In extreme cases, technical escorts become the order of the day – removing obstructions, including street furniture (keep left signs, pedestrian barriers etc) and overhead cables (telephone, electricity etc).
In one project, in transit through Poland, there were a total of 54 support staff – some providing the escort and traffic management role – numerous technical escorts, one team ahead of the convoy removing cables, another team following behind replacing them – not forgetting the tree surgeons, removing low, overhanging branches!
All in a days work at STG.
Consideration for the environment is likely to play an increasing part in the movement of cargo around the world.
With vehicles, do they meet the latest and most stringent regulations – reducing emissions to the absolute minimum? Are they taking the most effective route?
Dependent on the size of the consignment, disregarding sea freight, should alternatives to road be considered – perhaps by rail or river barge?
Both of these have been used by STG in the past and are likely to feature more strongly in the future – an area that is becoming a standard factor in considering alternative methods and routes.
To dismantle or not dismantle – that is the question.
Whether it is a single machine or a complete production line, one dilemma on most projects is whether it is better to spend money dismantling everything, with a probable saving in the overall freight cost – the alternative being to ship everything “as is”, saving on the dismantling cost but spending more on the freight cost.
In many cases, it is a “fine balance”, affected in part by other factors. Are there wiring looms that need disconnecting? Perhaps hydraulic systems that need to be drained, sealed and made safe? Should the opportunity be taken to refurbish the unit, part way through the journey?
All these factors came into play on a project to the USA – not only were STG made responsible for the freight but also the stress testing (X-ray) and repainting the unit in Atlanta, on route to the final destination.
Although, because of Brexit, customs documentation has come to the fore recently – for the STG team, it has always been part of the challenge – predominately in relation to Russia, together with other markets around the world. Whether it is at the export stage, in transit or on import – the smallest mistake can lead to extended and expensive delays. This disregards the fact that, in some cases, professional translations or legalised documents may come into play.
Whilst STG cannot generate the necessary documentation, advising customers on what is needed and when it is needed, is fundamental to the success of any movement – disregarding the payment of duties (if applicable).
A tendency to check, double-check and check again – combined with a network of specialist customs agents throughout the world, ensures that the risk of any delay is kept to the absolute minimum.
All part of “the difference” at STG.
At one end of the spectrum, there are truck mounted cranes (Hiab). At the other end, 1.000 ton capacity (or more) mobile cranes – their taking several days to rig and de-rig.
STG have experience of everything in between. Although it may seem common sense, the working radius of the crane, ground conditions and accessibility all have a considerable impact on the final choice.
Not infrequently, when discharging from vessels, shore based cranes do not provide the answer – with vessels equipped with heavy lift derricks or barge mounted, floating cranes coming into the equation.
If, for whatever reason, cranes are not the answer, then sophisticated hydraulic, jacking or gantry systems may come into play – another subject in its own right.
STG – for ALL your transport problems
Where do STG provide services to? It’s almost easier to say where we haven’t been.
By road – naturally Europe in the larger sense, to include Scandinavia (beyond the Artic Circle), North Africa, the Middle East and the former USSR. Probably the shortest distance was an aircraft crew training simulator, out of one gate at Heathrow airport into another. At the other extreme, an oversize load, under escort throughout, from the UK to the far side of Kazakhstan.
By road and sea – all the major and many minor countries, including the USA, India, Japan, Ghana, South Africa and Mexico – to name just a few. The other side of the globe includes an F111 test bed to the Australian air force base just outside Brisbane, together with earthquake relief supplies to Christchurch, New Zealand.
Although we weren’t responsible for the final stages, our involvement in delivering satellite equipment from Moscow to the European Space Agency at L’Aquila, with this eventually going on to Pasadena, followed by Cape Canaveral, was a highlight!
A container is a container, is a container – not entirely true.
Although the dimensions may be uniform, all the major shipping lines offer anything up to fifteen different variations. Disregarding the ubiquitous 20’ and 40’, there are Hi-Cubes, Open Top containers, Refrigerated containers and Flat Racks – with many of the lines being able to accept oversize cargo.
If transit time is important, one line may have the edge over another – to the point of initially routing by road via Rotterdam, Hamburg or even Genoa, in order to gain an extra day or so.
The permutations of equipment selection, combined with all possible routings, are endless.
Consultancy comes in many guises – each one unique in its own right.
In one instance, a supermarket chain was considering rolling out oversize, prefabricated convenience stores throughout Europe – it was a matter of deciding whether it was better to manufacture in Spain, Poland or Hungary – logistically, each country with its own advantages and disadvantages.
In another, the manufacturer wanted to know the optimum size that could be moved by road & sea, prior to re-designing their product line. When asked when this was likely to take place, their answer was that (if it happened) it could be in six to eight years time, once they had obtained planning permission for the factory extension!
Whatever the circumstances, the STG team are here to help.
We are considering moving our manufacturing facility from Svendborg, Denmark – part to the UK, part to Spain.
The only problem was that no one had a comprehensive list of all the machinery involved – the precise dimensions and weights. Two Account Managers from STG travelled out to Svendborg and spent three days cataloguing, measuring and photographing each machine – as a prelude to calculating the number of trailers involved. Only at that stage was it possible to give an accurate indication of the cost and time frame involved – in turn influencing the viability of the project.
In another instance, a simple cargo inspection determined that, by removing a small bracket, the overall width was sufficiently reduced to avoid the cost of escorts, in turn significantly reducing the freight cost to multiple destinations throughout Europe.
All in a days work at STG.
Since it was founded in September 1994, Air Freight has been an important component in the arsenal of services offered by STG.
It could be urgent spare parts for a car press, from one side of the world (Japan), to a plant in the UK (Sunderland). Laboratory equipment from Cambridge University, to a research facility in the USA. Perhaps a part charter from Prestwick airport near Glasgow, to Atlanta – for final delivery to the NASA facility at Stennis, in the Mississippi. Moving up a level – the charter of the worlds largest aircraft (at the time), an Antonov 124, for a bottling plant, from Bologna Italy to Shanghai – to name but a few.
In many ways, the aircraft is the “easy part” – just ensuring that the cargo is collected from the consignee on time, correctly documented and fully prepared, for delivery to alongside the waiting aircraft – with vehicles standing by at the other end to speed the consignment through to its final destination – in order to ensure that not a minute is wasted, on a timed, door to door basis.
Most organisations (of necessity) have standard, prescribed methods and routes. The opposite applies at STG. We are always on the look out for new solutions – to the point where, if we hit an obstacle mid-project, we always have another option in mind.
In simple terms, at STG we try harder. We don’t like to be beaten – everything humanly possible will be done to achieve the desired result – the cargo delivered safely, to budget and on time.
There is no substitute for experience – two years are better than one, ten years is demonstrably better. When the combined experience of the STG Team exceeds several hundred years, it’s a unique resource to tap into.