AAL Shipping has recently completed the transport of eight enormous juice tanks on a single voyage from Taicang Port in China to Setúbal, a city located 50 kilometers south of Lisbon in Portugal. The cargo, which weighed 150 tonnes each and measured 12 meters x 12 meters x 16.5 meters, was carried aboard the AAL Kobe, a mega-size A-Class heavy lift vessel with a deadweight of 31,000 tons. The shipment was transported along the popular ‘Asia-Europe’ trade route and is destined for a vessel conversion project at the Lisnave Shipyard.
Due to the tanks’ size and weight, meticulous operational planning was required to overcome various challenges associated with their lifting and transportation. The tanks were stowed securely on the vessel’s deck, and careful consideration was given to visibility restrictions during the journey. Upon arrival at the Portuguese shipyard, the tanks were safely discharged and will be installed into a bulk carrier, transforming the vessel into a dedicated fruit juice tanker.
Yahaya Sanusi, Deputy Head of Transport Engineering at AAL, explained the complexity of the operation, stating, “We initially had to ensure that a specially designed lifting beam could be aligned, connected, and lifted without mechanical support from the weather deck of the AAL Kobe to the tanks’ trunnions located 12 meters above. Thanks to the vessel’s impressive crane height and a tailor-made lifting beam, we successfully stowed the units on the deck.”
The project encountered a change in plans halfway through, as the initial discharge to the quayside was replaced by a more ambitious proposal to unload the heavy lift units directly onto the bulk carrier awaiting conversion. After thorough modeling and risk assessment by the engineering team, the original plan was reinstated. Overcoming challenges such as shallow vessel drafts and operational restrictions at the port of discharge required extensive modeling, bathymetric surveys, tide analysis, mooring planning, and risk assessment. This meticulous approach provided the necessary data and operational transparency for AAL to safely handle the tanks using only the ship’s cranes. All plans were thoroughly reviewed and approved by local port authorities, insurers, and other project stakeholders.
Christophe Grammare, Managing Director of AAL, highlighted the company’s commitment to serving busy trade lanes and ensuring the required frequency of sailings between Asia and key trading markets in Europe, the Americas, and Australasia. With almost 95 percent of AAL’s fleet now owned and controlled by the company, they have strengthened their engineering and operations capabilities across all major markets and time zones. This expertise was demonstrated in this project, where rapidly changing operational requirements and local restrictions were addressed effectively and efficiently.
The successful transport of the giant juice tanks showcases AAL Shipping’s ability to handle complex logistics and overcome challenges in delivering specialized cargo worldwide.