Age of titans
Most outsize cargo is moved as ocean freight, which is less costly, though sometimes shipping by air becomes necessary. This generally happens when clients are running late on a project or in urgent need of specific equipment —often seen in projects for industries such as energy, government, military and defense, automobile, construction aerospace and engineering.
“Sea freight is cheaper, but I would say probably 2% or 3% of oil and gas projects include some form of urgent airfreight at some stage,” said Pierre van Der Stichele, group director of cargo operations at Chapman Freeborn.
Beyond these general industry trends, conversations with stakeholders in air chartering reveal an emerging shift in demand for outsize cargo in the past year as market conditions have evolved. Due to the recession in 2008 and 2009, stakeholders in air chartering said the market for outsize cargo saw a slump, with many energy and overseas projects placed on hold. This trend lasted until about 2018, when a shift began; with the start of 2019, stakeholders said they saw more projects appear and received more requests for outsize cargo via both ocean and air. Several stakeholders reported requests have picked up, specifically for outsize air cargo.
“We had some very good construction projects last year, with outsized cargo for the building of factories, hotels and airport terminals,” van der Stichele said, adding that Chapman Freeborn has “done some cargo flights to transport very large pieces that do not traditionally fly on a scheduled cargo aircraft, so we turn toward specialist aircraft.” These include the “IL-76 aircraft with rear loading ramp, capable for uplifting 45 tonnes; An-124, capable of uplifting 120 tonnes, nose and rear loading, as well as aircraft is equipped with internal cranes; and the An-225, the world’s largest freighter, with rear ramp, internal loading cranes, capable of uplifting up to 250 tonnes,” according to van der Stichele.
Oil and gas projects also picked up in 2019, and the frequency of charter movements for these projects has increased, signaling a healthier energy industry, van der Stichele said. Other experts, like Daniel Ivy, government operations manager at Crane Worldwide Logistics, echoed this analysis.
“Following the recent downturn in the market, oil and gas clients are starting to move more cargo and are getting some of those rigs back to work,” Ivy said. “So, with that comes the support from the supply chain for those and getting equipment back into the fields; you’ll start seeing a lot more of the oversized cargo shipment requests come in.”
As a result, several major lanes for oil and gas are heating up for outsize shipments, including: United States-Europe, U.S.-Africa, U.S.-Asia, Southeast Asia-Africa and Europe-Africa.
Each industry is a little different, Ivy noted, adding that Crane Worldwide Logistics is seeing many of defense shipments going into the Middle East with government outsize shipments. Meanwhile, there is a lot of automotive movement coming out of Europe and going into the U.S. and Central America. And for North America, the company reportedly saw many outsize shipments coming in and out of China in 2019, though this may have changed with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus currently impacting operations across air cargo industry logistics chains.