08 Jun 2022
Not all cargo fits in a 20- or 40-foot container. Many machinery segments, vehicles or other unwieldy units are simply too wide. However, to get them to their goal, stowage experts often use what insiders call ‘flat racks’. These have open sides with foldable end sections at both ends limiting the cargo size. Both competence and expertise are needed for loading and securing them. In the Port of Hamburg, staff at a number of companies possess precisely these expert skills. One such company is TCO Transcargo. “As a matter of principle, for each project we consider the entire supply chain. Since it is important where the load should be handled. Frequently, there are limitations at the locations that we have to take into account when loading the cargo,” says Thomas Wolnewitsch, Joint CEO at TCO Transcargo.
This is why TCO accompanies each shipment from the very start. “If the technical equipment is lacking at the port of destination, then there is a big problem. Not every port has reach-stackers with the necessary load capacity or lifting power,” explains its Joint CEO Rainer Fabian adding: “As soon as we are talking about a heavy lift of up to 50 tons going out on a flat rack, then the load is usually packed in the port. When things are running really well, here in Hamburg we pack between 20 and 30 flat racks week for week. Each and every load is different. Over the last twenty years we have gathered a lot of expertise.”
Two factors have an enormous influence on the container and cargo. On the one hand, it is the varying climatic conditions, and on the other, the mechanical influences impacting both the load and the container during the voyage. “Nobody should underestimate the weather. If the cargo on a flat rack is not properly covered, it can be drenched and become damaged. After all, a containership on voyage from Europe to Asia passes through three climatic zones. A powerful monsoon can soak wooden packaging, if the crate is in the open,” stresses Wolnewitsch. The sun’s rays also have to be taken into account when packing, he adds.
The second important issue when transporting cargo on a flat rack is the mechanical impact. “In the vertical direction a momentary acceleration of 4g can occur. This happens, for example, when a container lands badly on the quay or into the ship. This is a daily occurrence, says Wolnewitsch. To avoid damage being caused like that, just how the load is secured really matters. TCO Transcargo’s experts calculate exactly what load securing is needed for each shipment.
For each shipment the weight has to be evened out and distributed equally across the flat rack. As soon as the point load is too high, the shipment should no longer be transported on a flat rack. “In such cases, we frequently use a substructure to spread the weight. When it comes to this almost every product is unique. Then you need real experience during assembly,” says the CEO. Taking tractors as an example, it is very important to support them. This is done with a wooden frame. When securing cargo, wood is the predominant material.
Not every shipment is packed by TCO. Some come from the manufacturers or external packers. What really counts is that the packer doesn’t hold back with material. As soon as the wood on the crate’s side walls is inadequate, it may break while being lashed. “With each shipment we pay extreme attention to these subtleties, at times making improvements,” says Wolnewitsch. Equally, the data has to be accurate. “It’s enough when the intersection of the centre of gravity is mounted on the wrong side. This can lead to incorrect calculation of the load securing dimensions, with all the consequences,” stresses Wolnewitsch. His colleague Fabian adds: “Digitalisation has entered the world of securing cargo. For example, currently virtual reality applications are in the test phase, meaning that we can almost take a look inside the packaging.” However, it is the staff with their skill and experience, who judge the cargo securing and carry it out reliably.
entire supply chain."
Founded in 1991, the company specializes in cargo handling, warehousing, distribution, and container logistics. With two locations in Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg on ‘Hohen Schaar’ and ‘Eversween’, TCO Transcargo provides a good connection to the terminals. The company owns 25 electronically-secured warehouses covering an area of more than 100,000 square metres. The team consists of 120 employees in commercial and blue collar areas.