How First Siberian Success Opened the Way for Follow-up GE Projects

Never Underestimate the Value of Good Partners

By Breakbulk Veteran Erik VandenBerg, Field Logistics, Global Fulfillment & Logistics, Gas Power Systems, GE Power

In 2009, General Electric Company was looking to deliver gas and steam power generation equipment to a project site in Russia’s Siberian northern interior. The complex cocktail of dozens of over-dimensional equipment and thousands of cubic meters of globally sourced supporting materials called for a multimodal delivery plan. Using the interior waterway system within Russia allowed economical access to the project site. It was the selection of quality and innovative carriers and freight forwarder as partners, which enabled GE to pull off this audacious scope of delivery.

In concert with Beluga Shipping, consolidations of cargo in Antwerp and Ulsan were loaded to vessels. After the countless certifications of multiple Russian departments and a final signature from the then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the Beluga Family, loaded two gas turbines and two generators, as well as other over-dimensional cargo and sailed first to Murmansk, Russia to clear Russian Customs. The vessel then sailed on to Obskaya Bay, where the cargo was transloaded to two ro-ro barges and three smaller barges in open ocean. This was the first commercial vessel under foreign flag to transit the Northwestern passage, also known as the Northern Seaway.

Simultaneously Beluga Fraternity and Beluga Foresight sailed from Ulsan, Korea with 30 HRSG modules and associated cargo to Vladivostok for customs regime. When completed permission was granted, the vessel moved through the Bering Strait, over the Eurasian land mass accompanied by Russian ice breakers to Obskaya Bay. There, after six days of transloading in open ocean to five barges, all 10 barges began a week-and-a-half-long journey to the prepared jetty in Surgut on the Chernay River.

GE had selected Chandler Logistics, based in Hamburg, Germany, to act as our in-country freight forwarding agent who would manage these deliveries to Surgut, Russia. In preparation of the arrival of the ro-ro barges, Chandler began the five-month long construction of a ro-ro jetty in January 2009, while the river was nearly frozen solid. In addition to the jetty, a 1.25-km road had to be built to allow the heavy units to access the public road. Chandler also had to make other civil improvements to railroad crossings and the steam heating pipes which heat homes and businesses in Surgut. The Surgut River port had a large-capacity gantry crane, which by doing some gymnastics could offload all but the heaviest items to the waiting trucks arranged by Chandler.

Yet another waterborne delivery came by a unique Chandler chartered “STK” vessel which traveled the entire ocean river to Surgut via the Northwest passage without a barge discharge. In addition, there were nine river sea vessels which traveled from Antwerp to the Russian interior port of Perm via St Petersburg by canal and river system. This cargo was loaded to 259 trucks that hauled general project cargo to the Surgut site. Finally, there were a further 120 trucks which traveled from Antwerp to the river city of Perm on wheels. Chandler had to provide every vessel and truck involved extensive paperwork to keep abreast of the Russian documentation requirements.

Lessons Learned

There was no way to accomplish this sort of project without the partnership of qualified, capable experts. Beluga Shipping, though sadly no longer operating, was able to provide the vessels capable of traveling the ice-choked waters of the Northwest Passage, becoming the first non-Russian commercial vessel to ply this route in the process. This was an outstanding achievement and GE was privileged to partner with them.

Chandler Logistics did an extraordinary job managing all the hundreds of fine details to ensure the multiple civil works were completed; vessels, trucks and barges were in place and accompanied by the required documentation to ensure that everything arrived on time and in one piece. The final lesson learned on the project was the importance of getting the right partners with the right skill set to ensure the deliveries are made on time and on budget. Beluga Shipping’s and Chandler’s logistics professionalism and expertise were critical to the success of this project.
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