Greek freight forwarder Cosmatos Group has coordinated the delivery of a hydrogen plant from the port of Thessaloniki to the UK.

Cosmatos Group delivering oversized cargo to the port.

Cosmatos Group delivering oversized cargo to the port.

The project included 963 tonnes of cargo, totalling 7,940 cu m. It included some of the largest individual loads to move through Thessaloniki city centre and loaded at the port.

The cargo, manufactured by EKME, was loaded onboard Ocean7’s heavy lift vessel Atlantic Dawn and was destined for a hydrogen plant designed by Technip Energy at Esso Petroleum’s refinery in Fawley, UK. 

Elisabeth Cosmatos, managing director at Cosmatos Group, said: “Even at the outset, it was clear that this project was going to create unique challenges, simply given the dimensions of the critical loads.” These consisted of three main penthouse units weighing 180.4 tonnes, 123.8 tonnes and 40.8 tonnes, plus an 85-tonne valve structure.

The project was first initiated back in 2019. During the planning phase, it was identified that critical movements by road from the EKME plant to the port would be restricted to the early morning hours of the weekend and would require close cooperation with utilities to avoid disruption to local power and telecoms.   

Like many things planned that year, the company explained, scheduling to ship in 2020-2021 proved futile in the face of covid restrictions.  

With a subsequent slowdown in production and an escalation in ship fuel prices, it was not until early in 2023 that the timing looked right to reschedule the load for shipment. From then on, conversations intensified between EKME, Cosmatos, Technip and forwarding partner DHL.  

However, by the time of the work’s revival, other unforeseen challenges had emerged which had a direct bearing on the logistics operation. “Conditions for transport had changed, with the logistics team needing to rethink,” said Cosmatos. “Upgrades were being made to some of the access roads on which the move would rely, including new bridge construction.”  

When municipal road works were still blocking access through one bridge along an essential part of the route, one month before the load was due to move, Cosmatos Group was assigned by ExxonMobil to find an alternative. 

“A detailed route survey of civil works had established that backfill and levelling would be needed on part of the port road, which was done by contractors,” Cosmatos continued. “But we were also holding weekly team meetings between all stakeholders to keep a close eye on progress on the roadworks outside our control. Permit applications were prepared for two routes, with a final selection made only two weeks before the transport date.  

“Looking back from the perspective of a successful completion, planning episodes can fade in memory, but this was an extremely challenging scenario; we joined forces with the team at our primary road transporter Kroustallelis to find the solution.” 

Loading cargoes onto Ocean7's heavy lift vessel Atlantic Dawn.

Loading cargoes onto Ocean7’s heavy lift vessel Atlantic Dawn.

For the move, SPMT-type bogies were used, with the heaviest load requiring 14+14 axles. After departing the EKME site under police escort, the transit needed to pause at the halfway point overnight to allow the public power company to lift high voltage overhead cables.

Once at the port, Cosmatos Group coordinated handling arrangements and pre-booked the berth for Atlantic Dawn as well as the temporary cargo storage area and yard handling equipment, while also liaising with stevedores.  

Tight clearances onboard the vessel demanded “rapid coordination of all parties to amend the stowage plan on spot as per actual needs of space,” said Cosmatos. “This was also a highly collaborative effort, and I’d especially like to recognise the support given by seAcure as risk assessor, by IMS UK as charterer’s surveyor, by ABL Group as marine warranty surveyor, and by the NAVICON SA welding team.”