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A factory at sea

Transport of a roller mill from Belgium to India

Transporting an entire factory plant by sea from Belgium to India is an unusual project even for the experienced Militzer & Münch team in Germany. This is not least because many plant components are only dismantled shortly before transport, which leaves only a tight time slot to communicate the cargo’s dimensions and degree of soiling to the shipping company – and to determine whether the cargo is even allowed on board.

The demand for bentonite – a rock used in construction, as a food additive and in cosmetics, among other things – has risen sharply in India. A leading Indian supplier of the material has therefore decided to dismantle a factory – a so-called roller mill – in the Netherlands and rebuild it in India.

The project involves several steps: a freight forwarder brings the parts from the Netherlands to the port in Antwerp, Belgium. From there, Militzer & Münch takes over the transport by sea to the port of destination. The logistics service provider transports most of the plant components to Mundra, India. Several shipments are necessary to transport the entire factory. The project started in August 2020.

Short term solutions

„Under normal circumstances, transports of this kind are no big deal for us,“ says Marco Fischer, Operations Manager, Sea Freight & Project Logistics at Militzer & Münch. „However, many of the components are only dismantled shortly before they are carted off.“ This is why there are often spontaneous adjustments to the size and weight of the cargo – and suitable solutions have to be found quickly. The Militzer & Münch team therefore maintains close contact with the shipping company at all times in order to be able to communicate any changes as quickly as possible.

The parts are up to 4.2 meters wide and 3.8 meters high. This makes them 'out-of-gauge', i.e. they exceed the normal container dimensions. In order to use the capacities on board as efficiently as possible, containers are precisely matched to each other during loading. The weight of the containers also plays a decisive role in loading. Heavy containers are stored in the lower part of the container vessel to ensure stability. “Space on the ships is limited, and this type of cargo is usually not transported in standard containers,” explains Marco Fischer. “There’s a lot of information we only receive at very short notice. It is therefore no easy task to register the containers with the shipping company in good time and get them stowed on board."

“The ship's captain has the option of rejecting cargo if he thinks it is too dirty.”

Marco Fischer
Project Logistics Sea Freight at Militzer & Münch

A (not so) clean solution

Another challenge for the Militzer & Münch team: in some cases, the components of the plant are very dirty. Since the cargo is removed immediately after dismantling, there is no time to clean the factory parts. “The ship's captain has the option of rejecting cargo if he thinks it is too dirty,” says Marco Fischer. “So far, none of our containers have been rejected, but if this should happen, we will find a solution for this as well.” Intensive communication with the shipping line and the customer, as well as the Militzer & Münch team's in-depth know-how, have ensured that the first shipments have already been successfully handled to the customer's full satisfaction.