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The team of deugro Netherlands was approached by the client after a production line shutdown at a petrochemical plant in Saudi Arabia. In close cooperation with the teams of deugro Italy, deugro Saudi Arabia and deugro Air Chartering, the project was completed within this very short time span, to minimize extremely costly downtime.

The time-critical cargo units contained heat exchange equipment with a total volume of 811 cubic meters and a total weight of 252,216 kilograms, including convection modules with dimensions of 1,100 x 310 x 340 centimeters and weighing 54,500 kilograms.

While the heat exchanger modules, which were the main scope of the shipment, were picked up from a supplier in Italy near Milan, the plant operator requested on short notice another delivery of a fan casing from another supplier in the Netherlands as an additional scope, which was added during a stopover at Ostend-Bruges Airport in Belgium.

The first two flights from Italy to Saudi Arabia each contained three packages with a total weight of 86.81 and 71.50 metric tons respectively. The third flight contained three packages with a total weight of 67.50 metric tons, which were loaded in Milan, and an additional four packages weighing 26.41 metric tons, loaded at Ostend-Bruges Airport.

“Due to the critical schedule, an air charter solution was selected to provide the shortest transit time. This allowed for choosing the airports of origin and destination as close as possible to the supplier locations and the plant site, and the schedule of the flights could be planned in accordance with the manufacturing schedules,” said Joost Maranus, Senior Project Coordinator, deugro Netherlands.

Due to the dimensions of the heat exchanger modules, they could only be transported with Antonov aircraft. However, after the start of the military conflict in Ukraine, which has dramatically impacted the heavy lift market and resulted in the loss of the AN-225 aircraft, the biggest challenge was to secure the required aircraft in time.

“Thanks to deugro’s long-standing strategic relationship with the carriers, and despite the severe shortage of these aircraft in the view of the military conflict in Ukraine, we were able to successfully lock in the aircraft for the required dates of transportation,” said Pavel Kuznetsov, Head of Air Chartering, deugro.

Besides securing the aircraft, the deugro team successfully handled several technical challenges to ensure a safe transport. As the cargo hold of an AN-124-100 is not fully pressurized, the deugro team carefully checked with the suppliers’ engineers to ensure that the in-flight conditions in the cargo hold, including the temperature and pressure change rates, were suitable for the modules to be transported. Furthermore, several modules were too heavy to be lifted with the on-board crane of the AN-124-100, meaning the loading and offloading had to be executed using the carrier’s special loading ramps and external mobile cranes, which deugro arranged at the origin and destination airports on time.

Upon arrival at King Fahd International Airport in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, the individual flights were quickly unloaded, taking an average of three to five hours per aircraft. Through early and close coordination and cooperation with the plant operator, the airport authorities, and the appointed ground-handling agent, the local deugro Saudi Arabia team ensured a smooth and timely entry of the cranes and trailers into the airport upon arrival of all three charters. This avoided delays in unloading and ensured the subsequent 100-kilometer on-carriage and delivery of the cargo to the construction site according to the agreed schedule.

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