March 4 - Ruslan International has, in conjunction with Volga-Dnepr's Engineering Logistics Centre (ELC), transported a 70-tonne oil refinery stripping tower from Bakersfield, California to Erbil in Iraq.

The shipment was negotiated and overseen by Volga-Dnepr Unique Air Cargo (VDUAC) - Ruslan's representative in Houston, USA.

This is an operation that many believed simply was not possible due to the sheer length of the cargo and the fact that it needed to be transported in one piece, said Ruslan.

Perhaps the biggest challenge associated with the lift was the fact that the tower, which measured 38.4 m x 3.7 m x 3.7 m, was technically longer than the cargo floor of the AN-124-100 freighter aircraft by almost 2 m, explained Ruslan. 

To add to the complexity, said Ruslan, the tower was required to be transported as it was constructed, without cutting it to reduce the length or removing any protruding pieces. Consideration also had to be given to the fact that the tower had no authorised attachment or lifting points on it, nor had it any loading technologies attached to it to facilitate transport or loading.

To overcome these difficulties, VDUAC designed two transportation cradles that allowed the tower to be loaded on to the aircraft via the ramp and rail system used by the AN-124-100, and also helped ensure the cargo's structural integrity.

Ruslan explained that the cradles helped to raise the tower's body above the angled rear ramp of the aircraft to avoid touching it during the flight. The rear ramp of AN-124-100 is not suitable for any cargo, explained Ruslan, and there is a tow bar secured to the rear ramp during all any flight.

"The tower actually filled almost 100 percent of the entire physical length of the cargo cabin being raised above the ramp like this," said a spokesperson.

The cradles ensured that all transportation requirements, load bearing concerns, restraint criteria for G-Force restrictions and tie-down requirements of the AN-124-100 were met, said Ruslan, meaning that the equipment could be flown to Iraq in time.

Manufactured in the USA, the tower was being transported by the Taq Taq Operating Company (TTOPCO) for use in the Taq Taq oil field in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, and the timing of the delivery was critical to enable operations at the refinery to begin as soon as possible.

Ruslan collaborated with VDUAC and Volga-Dnepr's ELC to coordinate all other logistical factors for the lift, including: trucking, craning, local police escorts and general safety measures related to moving such a large piece of cargo overland to the airport for loading.