Issue 2 2019 - Freight Business Journal

Aerospace market soars away for Antonov Airlines

Oil and gas work at Antonov Airlines has held steady but it is the aerospace market that has really taken off, says UK managing director Graham Witton. Such is the pace of aircraſt

production nowadays that manufacturers now routinely have large assemblies delivered by Antonov rather than relying on cheaper but much slower deliveries by sea or road. At the same time, says Witton,

the increased sophistication of components and the increased use of composite materials mean that plane manufacturers increasingly demand delivery of complete assemblies to aircraſt production lines, rather than raw materials or components. All this has helped to increased demand for specialised air transportation in the sector. Antonov Airlines operates seven Antonov 124 aircraſt, the largest plane in regular fleet use anywhere in the world, and its cavernous hold lends itself to movement of these large, indivisible objects. Witton states: “At the moment,

manufacturers are trying to make aircraſt as quickly as possible. And while that was always true of smaller aircraſt such as the 737, it has now spread to larger types. The waiting list for a 787 is now around 7-8 years.” Chartering an Antonov 124

is expensive, so it isn’t quite a routine part of the aircraſt production process, but customers are becoming more and more switched on to the possibilities. And while the cost of chartering an

An 124 can be high, it can be a lot less than having an aircraſt production line shut down for days or weeks. As well as aircraſt production, the

An124 also comes into its own for moving large spares, particularly engines, for aircraſt that have been stranded by a technical fault where, usually, speed is of the essence. Possibly, more customers would

consider chartering the An124, Witton continues, were it not for government and regulatory red tape in some parts of the world. The An124, being a relatively old aircraſt and something of a one- off, doesn’t always fit in with laid- down regulatory procedures. Some countries can take ten days to decide whether to let the planes fly into their territory, aſter which much of the time advantage of using a plane instead of truck or ship will have evaporated. Screening of cargo can also be

a problem, particularly the larger pieces that cannot be X-rayed. Witton recalls a case in Belgium where explosive detector dogs had to be used – and they returned a positive result. “It was all because the goods had been stored next to a field that had been sprayed with pesticides, and it was the pesticides that gave a false positive,” he says. Finding a suitable airport that

can handle the An124 is also less easy than it used to be, mainly because the increase in low- cost flights has made the once secondary gateways so busy. While there are still airports in remoter areas, even some of these have attracted frequent passenger

flights, making it less easy to cater for a large freighter parked on the tarmac for several hours or days. That said, there still places

where the An124 is more than welcome, including Antonov Airlines’ main hub at Leipzig, which is also the base for a large Nato military contract. Vatry Airport in France, Ostend in Belgium and Ostrava in the Czech republic are other favoured spots while in the UK, main airports are Prestwick, Doncaster, East Midlands and, if access to the London area is essential, Stansted. While Antonov Airlines’

commercial HQ is in Stansted, the UK is actually quite a small market, although Rolls Royce in Derby does provide a steady stream of aero engine traffic via East Midlands. The US is the carrier’s single

biggest market, both for freight moving in and out and to an even greater extent in terms of where the major freight-moving decision makers are. The carrier opened an office in Houston about 18 months ago and is in the process of recruiting a third person there. Houston remains a key hub for

the oil and gas industry but there is an increasing amount of power generating equipment moving via Florida, Georgia and Alabama. The US has a myriad number of airports and, provided the runway is long enough to take the aircraſt, handling poses no problem as the An124 is a self-contained plane carrying its own handling gear. The plane can in fact land and take off from runways as short as 2,100 metres when lightly-loaded although fully laden it requires up to 3,100m. This versatility means that the

An124 is called upon from time to time to get humanitarian cargo into places that have been hit by floods, earthquakes

or other natural

disasters. It is invaluable for getting urgently needed equipment such as generators quickly to where they can help save lives. Business generally is stable;

Witton does not expect to see great movements up or down for the foreseeable future. The market for outsize cargo may not be increasing massively, but on the other hand the supply of An124s is more-or-less fixed. Also, there is no other plane in the skies today that can challenge the An124 for its sheer carrying capability (other than the unique An225). There has been talk over the

years of restarting the An124 production line but this is unlikely. Quite apart from the political differences between Ukraine – where the Antonov aircraſt company is based – and one-time partner Russia, a minimum order of 50 planes would be needed to justify setting up a production line. In any case, the existing aircraſt

have at least 15 years useful life ahead of them and could probably be extended beyond that, says Witton. More work can be got out of

the existing fleet by more efficient scheduling of maintenance, Witton considers, and it would also be possible to convert further examples into the 150-tonne capacity An124-150 variant. Antonov Airlines has two examples of this type, which can carry 30 tonnes more than the standard version, something that is appreciated by shippers of the heavier types of cargo.

All quiet on the Manchester waterfront

The Manchester Ship Canal is one of the few British waterways capable of handling commercial freight vessels but there is a strange reluctance to use it to its full potential, says Graham Dixon, managing director of canalside operator Esprit Warehousing & Docks. Esprit has handled a small

number of oversized loads destined for the Manchester area through its Trafford Docks berth, mainly power generators – and Dixon is hopeful of more in the coming year. However, the amount of project freight business is limited. This is despite the fact that Trafford Park is recognised by the Highways Agency as a designated berth, which all oversized loads heading for the Greater Manchester area

must use. However, much more than

indivisible large loads could use the berth, Dixon argues. “For example, there are a lot of aggregates and building materials that could come this way. Manchester probably has more tower cranes on construction sites than anywhere else in the country, and most of the building sites are on or very close to the Canal. There are opportunities for cement, sand and so on, and also waste going out of Manchester, which currently all moves by road. We’re missing a huge opportunity.” Even parcels could move by

barge, Dixon suggests. What could be greener than water transport into the heart of the city, connecting onto electric-powered delivery vans. It would not necessarily be

slower than by road and not all parcels are time-sensitive anyway. Ships and barges are probably

more reliable than trucks. In four years, Esprit has never had a vessel delayed due to congestion, whereas Manchester is currently locked in a grim competition with London for the most congested rush hour urban road system. Moreover, Manchester has a

major pollution problem, regularly missing air quality targets, and getting some freight off the roads and onto the canal could make a significant contribution to reducing it.

Some traffic does already use

the canal, not necessarily as far as Trafford Park. There are regular container barge services from Liverpool and a cement flow.

However, vessels are few and far between and even local people may be unaware that the Ship Canal is open for commercial business. This indeed may be part of the problem. “People may not consider using the canal because it’s not being done already; a lot of people probably think it’s not in use.”

Another factor could be a fear of

the unknown. Trucking is a routine activity whereas transport by barge and dockside handling are not. The canal can take vessels of up

to 5.2 metres draſt and 4,500 tonnes weight, equivalent to perhaps 50 regular-sized trucks. Perhaps it needs some sort

of legal coercion to get freight onto the waterway. One recent development is a new edict from

Greater Manchester Police banning road movements of abnormal loads between 0630-0930 and 1530-1830. And, given that other police forces between Manchester and the major forces also have their own restricted hours, getting an outsize load from, say, Hull to Manchester can be a protracted business. There is even anecdotal evidence of a huge windmill blade en route from Humberside crossing the M62, at great disruption to other users of the motorway, only to miss its slot in Manchester – and being sent all the way back again across the Pennines. Grant aid is the other way of

getting freight off the roads but, says Dixon, the way it is currently calculated is not favourable to

the Manchester Ship Canal. The parallel M62 is not deemed to be a seriously congested road, according to the formula used, despite the fact that it is in fact gridlocked for several hours in the morning and evening rush hour. (The cynical view is that the Government has deliberately devised the formula so that the grant rarely if ever has to be paid out.) Meanwhile, Esprit is continuing invest

to in its warehousing

business, although economically viable sites in and around Manchester are scarce. It took several months to find the additional 62,000sq ſt of capacity is has just opened, for palletised and ambient goods.


Collett delivers for Dorenell wind farm

Collett & Sons has started to deliver components and equipment for the Dorenell Wind Farm, near Dufown in north-east Scotland, one of the heavyweight transport operator’s

largest renewables

projects to date. For the last six months Collett’s

teams have methodically moved each component from a storage location at the port of Inverness – and later from Aberdeen - to Dorenell and all deliveries are now complete for the 59 Vestas V90 turbines. Components

arrived in

Inverness from Santander in Spain, Italy, Campbeltown in Scotland and Denmark. The port had been considerably expanded to offer the necessary facilities, including extensive laydown areas, increased storage capacity and a new entrance suitable for turbine components of up to 50m long. However, with the wind farm 80

over miles away Collett

carried out extensive planning with components routed through Inverness, Nairn, Forres, and Elgin before arriving at the Dorenell site entrance. Every aspect of the route was

meticulously analysed including test drives, specialist swept path analysis reports and topographical surveys and any modifications

such as street furniture removals, road widening, tree surgery, contraflow manoeuvres, manual steering


requirements stability

and restrictions

carried out. Three clamp trailers, six blade

trailers, two 6-axle step frames and pilot cars moved each of the 44m blades, 72-tonne nacelles, hubs, nose cones and top, middle and bottom tower sections, at off peak hours to minimise disruption to other road users. Collett has also completed

deliveries of 78 turbine blades to Kype Muir Wind Farm, south of Glasgow. Its teams planned and delivered 494 components including blades, towers, nacelles, drive trains and hubs using the company’s Super Wing Carriers due

to road restrictions and

alignments en route. Collett Consulting created a

3D model of the loaded vehicle which then allowed it to produce a detailed swept path analysis video of the blade components. Deliveries to the site, which lies

three miles south of Strathaven, South Lanarkshire, are now complete and construction of the wind farm is well underway. Kype Muir Wind Farm is the flagship development of Banks Renewables and is expected to be fully operational in early 2019.

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