Equipment used in hydrocarbon exploration is the dominant heavyweight load for many specialists in outsize cargo.
Cargolux reports receiving a steady stream of cargo that can be considered outsize, much of it on behalf of companies in the oil and gas exploration sector. Oil and gas equipment flows in a steady stream from Houston and Singapore bound for final destinations at offshore drilling sites in West Africa and other regions.
“The America-Europe trade lane is quite busy,” Henrik Ambak, vice president, global logistics for Cargolux, says. “Oil equipment to the west coast of Africa or to Nigeria, or anywhere you have offshore drilling. There is a steady stream of equipment out of Houston and out of Singapore.”
Ambak says outsize cargo is a significant part of Cargolux’s business and Cargolux has made an effort to be better than its competitors. He says outsize cargo, depending on what definition is used, accounts for 5-10 percent of the company’s overall cargo.
Ambak says Cargolux transports a “steady stream” of heavy or odd dimension cargo. He says Cargolux’s service moves beyond the realm of load managers and planners.
“We employ structural engineers to calculate how cargo should be prepared and loaded into the aircraft without damaging aircraft and damaging itself. It’s a market segment we would like to grow to make use of our competencies. Everyone can move T-shirts and boxes, no disrespect intended, but the cargo we move requires different competencies. It’s something that Cargolux has always done with passion and is important for us, therefore it’s something we spend time on.”
Cathay Pacific refers to outsize cargo as “expert lift,” and James Woodrow, director cargo, says it is of varying importance throughout its networks. It’s a critical service in markets such as Houston, where it makes up a large part of the carrier’s cargo base for its five weekly flights. Several European markets are also important, he says.
“Expert lift out of Houston is mainly oil and gas shipments, whereas ex Europe can be anything from steel plates to cars,” Woodrow says. “From Houston, we recently carried a very large extension joint for a drilling rig.”
Miami-based Centurion Air Cargo sends a lot of outsize cargo to Latin America for a variety of industries.
“We handle shipments for the energy sector, including a lot of pipes and generators,” Luis Soto, Centurion’s director of sales and marketing, says. “We have a steady demand. You don’t fill airplanes with it, but there are shipments about every day. It’s a big part of our business and we have the right aircraft to move this kind of freight.”
Soto says Centurion has been using 747s since mid-2013. Centurion used to wet-lease two 747s from Southern Air, but began bringing its own aircraft. The carrier operates three 747s with two more due to arrive in the next few months.
Charter specialist Chapman Freeborn also sees considerable energy-related business.
“It’s kind of hit and miss at the moment, but it still pretty much focuses on oil and gas,” Chris Fisher, senior account executive with Chapman Freeborn, says. “We have seen a drop in the last few months or so.”
The pullback of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past few years has contributed to the outsize cargo downturn, Fisher says.
Paul Furlonger, sales director at Ruslan International, the UK-based company formed to market the fleet of 17 Antonov 124 aircraft operated by Antonov Airlines and Volga-Dnepr, says his company is pleased with its utilization levels during the past few years. He believes that industrial shipments spurred by an improving global economy will offset reductions in military transport. He says the market seeing the highest rates of growth for his company are aerospace, oil and gas and power generation.
“We are expecting production in these industries to continue that over the next four to five years,” Furlonger says. “We see a continuing growth in the satellite business as the satellites we were involved with launching 20 years ago start to reach the end of their useful lives.”
Furlonger says thriving business at Boeing and Airbus will also help fill up Ruslan’s Antonov 124s.
“The component parts of those airplanes are continuing to be made in modular unit sizes all over the world and then shipped to various final assembly points,” Furlonger says. “We don’t see a change in that model of production.”
Over the past year, there has been increasing traffic between the Far East and South America and between the Far East and Africa, Furlong observes. A big gas project off the coast of Australia also figures to benefit air cargo business.
“The slow but steady exploitation of opportunities in the South Atlantic in the oil and gas industry off the coast of Brazil and off the coast of Angola are generating demand,” he says. “There is a big project off the northwest coast of Australia, and they are expecting gas production to last until 2070. Hopefully, we will get a small slice of that pie.”
The political turmoil in Ukraine has not adversely affected Ruslan’s operations, Furlonger says.
“So far, the unfortunate situation in Ukraine has had no material effect on the business. Unless the situation deteriorates significantly, and I don’t see that happening, I don’t see any reason why there should be interruption to the business. Ukraine and Russia may have disagreement of some issues, but they continue to cooperate on others. We are operating as we were this time last year when no one expected there to be a problem between Ukraine and Russia.”