FLS Tackles Baytown Project
One major project in 2015-2016 presented challenges in scale and complexity, when FLS exported 151 steel modules to be assembled into a petrochemical plant near Houston, Texas.
The project involved exporting more than 200,000 revenue tons out of the Thai port of Sattahip to the U.S. FLS chartered 13 BBC Chartering vessels to carry the modules, which were shipped across the Pacific, and through the Panama Canal to the Port of Houston, and then delivered by trucks and barges to the nearby job site.
The project involved a series of tricky challenges over 15 months, including extensive initial preparations. FLS was required to send modules at a rate of one shipment every two weeks during nine of those 15 months. If any shipment had run behind schedule, the entire project would have gone awry, said Sarawut Suwattanakorn, project manager for FLS. “If you delay one ship, you then delay another one, so if something goes wrong it has a domino effect.” That didn’t happen.
Choosing how to protect these modules against the potential ravages of long ocean voyages was another major challenge. Would the cargo be protected better if it was placed under the deck where it would be less exposed to weather? Because of the delicacy of the cargo the decision was made to shrink wrap all on-deck modules in plastic and then place them into protective netting. Suwattanakorn explained: “We picked the thickest possible material we could find and then placed the cargo stowed on deck.”
Francesco Jose Rivi, director of business development at FLS, added that there would have been space constraints if the cargo had been placed under deck, meaning that a rotation of 15 to 17 vessels would have been needed to ship all the modules, rather than the 13 vessels that were ultimately used. Ultimately, all the cargo, including the modules stored on deck arrived in perfect condition after the 40- to 45-day journey.
FLS opted for the Thai port of Sattahip, 68 kilometers south of Laem Chabang Port, as its point of departure for each shipment to accommodate the 10-meter maximum height of the cargo modules, which were too high to pass under every pedestrian bridge on the way to the port of Laem Chabang.
It is the challenge of dealing with such complexities that makes the project cargo business consistently more compelling than the cookie-cutter containerized sector, Rivi said. “This business is so challenging, you need to feel the passion. Our size is an advantage, because we are more flexible, and our decision-making process is faster.”
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