A round-up of HLPFI's top news from the world of heavy lift and project forwarding in 2014.

With Christmas almost here, many of you will be trading time in the office for time with your families during the festive season. But over the holidays, you will no doubt occasionally be thinking about the year almost past.

So, along with our best wishes for the season, and for a healthy and rewarding year in 2015, we offer a little package of Christmas gifts to help you remember some of the high and low points of 2014 in the world of heavy lift and over dimensional project cargoes  - in the form of the year's top posts on www.heavyliftpfi.com


Business news

UTC Overseas and Almajdouie Logistics Company signed an exclusive agency joint venture agreement earlier in the year, which was based on the companies' cooperative activities in the global project logistics field.

Boskalis reached an agreement in March of this year to acquire Fairmount Marine and Fairmount Ocean Towage Company.

In October it was reported that a trio of shipping, offshore and finance professionals based in Norway were planning to set up a new bank to focus on the funding requirements of owners and operators active in the global shipping and offshore industries: Maritime & Merchant Bank.

China Navigation Company (CNCo) signed a conditional sale and purchase agreement to acquire Pacifica Shipping from New Zealand headquartered Skeggs Group in December, while February saw ALP Maritime Services enter into an agreement to be acquired by Teekay Offshore.

ALE acquired the majority share in Australia's ECR Group, following a successful joint venture between the two companies. Elsewhere, a subsidiary of Saltchuk Resources entered into a binding purchase and sale agreement to take control of Tropical Shipping in April, with the sale being closed by AGL Resources in September.

Barnhart Crane & Rigging reached an agreement to purchase Hite Crane & Rigging, while online marketplace for buying and selling used heavy equipment - IronPlanet - partnered with another online heavy haul transportation marketplace: VeriTread.

OXL satisfied Belgian administrators and its creditors that it is a credible ongoing concern in July, having restructured the operational and strategic side of its business.

In June, Mammoet Europe expressed its intention to sell a large part of its maritime fleet to Hebo Maritiemservice.

South Africa's Barloworld Transport acquired an 80 percent shareholding in specialised transport provider Kumkani Heavy Haulage, which saw Kumkani rebranded as Manline Kumkani. In Australia, McAleese Group agreed to pay USD3 million for a 50 percent equity investment in Heavy Haulage Australia (HHA), with an option to acquire the remaining 50 percent in two to five years.

Hapag-Lloyd and CSAV completed the merger of their container businesses in December to become the world's fourth-largest liner shipping company.

Financially troubled Korean shipping line Pan Ocean, which cancelled an order for a semi-submersible heavy lift newbuilding in April, accepted a bid from a consortium comprising poultry processor Harim Group and private equity fund JKL, and has since signed an MoU regarding the sale.


Airfreight news

We saw an ongoing dispute between Polet Airlines and Moscow Arbitration Court over the Russian airline's failure to meet an agreement concerning its two AN-124 freighters, which appears to have ended in the suspension of Polet's passenger and cargo operations.

In light of Russia's annexation of Crimea earlier this year and the ensuing political tension, Ukraine's Antonov Airlines confirmed that it is working on widening its international cooperation after ceasing some of its business with Russia.


Shipping news

The shipping side of the project logistics industry witnessed some major changes, with Combi Lift owners J. Poulsen Shipping and Harren & Partner setting up Combi Dock Chartering in Denmark, after the relocation of Combi Lift's headquarters to Bremen in November of this year. This was followed by news that J. Poulsen Shipping had inked a cooperation agreement with Hamburg Bulk Carriers (HBC).

Harren & Partner was also in the news in June, when the company founded the joint venture BHS Pool Weser-Ems along with Briese Schiffahrt, in order to create a shipping pool for heavy lift vessels. Elsewhere, another joint shipping pool operation was formed by Saga Forest Carriers International and Westfal-Larsen Shipping: Saga Welco.

Back in March we saw the discontinuation of the Maersk-Rickmers U.S. Flag Project Carrier joint venture, which was established in 2011 to provide breakbulk and project cargo shipping services, with the joint venture's two vessels subsequently sold to Thorco Shipping.

The Clipper Group also sold three multipurpose vessels, built in 2011 and 2012, to Algerian company CNAN Nord as part of fleet renewal programmes for both.

Arkon Shipping upped its project cargo antics this year, taking over the commercial management of the heavy lift vessel Lena from SAL in November, and establishing a Baltic Cargo Shuttle feeder service for heavy lift, breakbulk and project cargo together with Poland's Best Logistics.

In November, HLPFI reported that HongFa Shipping, which was established in 2011 by Chipolbrok and is based in Shanghai, is set to launch a new liner service between the Far East, Southeast Asia and the East Coast of South America.


New vessels

2014 was also a year filled with newbuild deliveries. Some of the more notable included: the delivery of the 8,000 dwt multifunctional vessel RollDock Storm to Dutch shipping company RollDock in June; the launch of Jumbo Fairmaster in May; the delivery of Happy Star to BigLift Shipping in September; the addition of three 28,000 dwt heavy lift vessels into Cosco Shipping's fleet - Da Liang, Da De and Da Xin; and the chartering of two new ships, each with a 450-tonne lifting capacity, by SAL Heavy Lift in July.

There was intrigue in the semi-submersible market, with the return of ex-Fairstar ceo Philip Adkins who founded a joint venture ZPMC-Red Box Energy Services, which is to build and operate two 28,500 dwt PC-3 module carriers scheduled for use in Russia's Yamal LNG project. The vessels are scheduled for delivery in January 2016. Watch this space!

Around the same time BigRoll Shipping announced that it had contracted China's Cosco Dalian Shipyard to build two more MC-class module carriers, bringing the total number of vessels under construction to four. And Cosco Shipping did not miss out on the action either, with news that it had also ordered two more semi-submersible vessels for delivery in 2016.

Early in 2014, Boskalis announced that it had begun a study into a new ultra large V-class heavy marine transport vessel to rival its own Dockwise Vanguard.

Elsewhere Nordana ordered a further eight heavy lift ships from China's Taizhou Sanfu Shipbuilding, in addition to the four that were already under construction - one of which has now been delivered. Also at Taizhou Sanfu, we saw a new German shipping company - Zeaborn - step onto the scene with an order for the construction of ten multipurpose vessels.

In February, Chipolbrok confirmed that it had signed a contract with a Shanghai shipyard, for the construction of four 32,000 dwt heavy lift vessels, for delivery to the company in 2015 and 2016.

News reached HLPFI in May that Intermarine was adding 15 new vessels to its fleet to cater for its heavy lift and project cargo customers. The first ship is expected to enter service next year.

Crowley Maritime Corporation's solutions group received the first two of potentially four new heavy lift, ballastable deck barges in September of this year.


Notable arrivals and departures

It was an eventful year for Thorco, with the announcement that the company's ceo Henrik Ramskov was stepping down in May, after spending less than one year at the helm. In July accountant Kent Hedegaard joined the company, and together with Thomas Mikkelsen, was appointed to head up Thorco's future development.

HLPFI was pleased to see that ex-DHL Industrial Projects boss Hans Toggweiler returned to the industry this year, joining Panalpina in June as global project and oil and gas consultant to head up the company's new entity, Panalpina Energy Solutions, which was formed by the merging of Panprojects and the company's oil and gas activities.

This news materialised along with Chris Kent's decision to leave Panalpina as global head of its Panprojects division, after 12 years of service with the company.

At the beginning of 2014, news broke that Nils Wolf had stepped down as senior vice president of Kuehne + Nagel's global project division, with Leif Arne Strømmen nominated by the board to take over as global lead of the company's projects, oil and gas, and marine logistics. Wolf subsequently set up his own company: Nils Wolf & Associates.

A surprise announcement in April revealed that Ron Widdows was stepping down from his position as ceo of Rickmers Group. Ulrich Ulrichs subsequently took over as the ceo of Rickmers-Linie. 2014 also saw the resignation of Robert Sappio as president and ceo of Rickmers-Linie (America), with Waldemar (Val) Poulsen appointed to replace him.

Ex-head of Americas for Clipper Projects, Steven Neuendorff, was appointed head of Americas at Hansa Heavy Lift. It also emerged in September that Niels Stolberg - former head of Beluga Shipping - is now the chairman of the supervisory board of Green Sailing.


Equipment highlights

In February, UTC Overseas commissioned a new custom-designed railcar for handling project cargoes, with a 12.2 m long centre-deck and a load capacity of over 400 tonnes.

In May we saw Hegmann-Gruppe of Sonsbeck receive approval to construct a new multimodal heavy cargo terminal in Wesel, while July saw Netherlands based Tower-Bridge unveil a brand new transport system for wind turbine tower sections, which works by driving the trailer inside the wind tower section.

Modulift broke records in May with the design and development of the world's highest capacity single point lifting beam.

In October HLPFI went to see the official introduction of the first two units of ALE's new Trojan truck in the UK. Back in Germany HLPFI was also present at the handover of Scheuerle's new 550-tonne capacity STB 550 side girder deck to Collett Transport in Germany.


All about Evie

This week Nicaragua announced that work has begun on a new canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, which will be longer deeper and wider than its rival counterpart in Panama. 2014 also brought news that Egypt is also planning to enter the game, with plans announced to expand the Suez Canal.

Evie has followed the Panama Canal expansion project closely this year, intrigued by its ongoing disputes and delays, but more importantly impressed by some of the spectacular heavy lift shipments the project has created, as each of the new lock gates were transported from Italy to Panama on board various semi-submersible vessels.

This was probably Evie's favourite shipment, but she also enjoyed watching an oversize hippo sail down the river Thames back in September of this year.

Evie also heard on the grapevine this week that our friends at the Breakbulk series of exhibitions and media could be getting a very nice Christmas present this year, with reports that the ITE Group is set to acquire the company from Axio Data for a maximum consideration of USD42m.

All in all, 2014 has been a great one for Evie and all the team at HLPFI, and we would like to thank all of our readers for their continued support in 2014 and wish everybody best wishes for the festive period and a very happy new year.