Maersk Line has moved special cargo since well before the container was introduced and we still do.
Containers are used to transport anything today and we transport as much as possible in containers; it is the most efficient way to enable trade. However, every piece of cargo does not fit within the dimensions of the standard container, and of course that piece of special cargo can be moved – it just takes special skills.
The crew of NORA MÆRSK (entered the Maersk Line fleet in 1934) handling a very special piece of cargo. Immediately after the Second World War, Maersk participated – on a commercial base – in transporting American products to Europe.
Train cars from Japan to Thailand and planes from the United States to Europe are some quite spectacular examples delivered by our colleagues in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
When the container concept was introduced in the 1970’s, the vessels were designed for that concept – which makes standard cargo handling (the container, not the actual cargo) very efficient.
But it was at the cost of flexibility for out-of-size cargo – and innovation was needed.
In the times prior to containers, Maersk Line had built strong customer relations with Caterpillar and other manufacturers of products that do not fit the dimensions of the standard container. This market was so important, that the original plan for containerisation of Maersk Line’s USA-Asia service in 1975 specified the need for “…identifying…opportunities for capturing specialised traffic, e.g. liquids, motor-cars, large items of machinery…”.
Adaptations were made to ensure safe transport on the conventional cargo ships. To facilitate the same on container ships, we worked on solutions with the shippers of large machinery.
Early examples of the 20 and 40 foot Artificial Tween-Deck solution that retained many customers in the transition from conventional cargo ships to containerised services.
The initial results included the “artificial tween-deck”, a container-sized platform where the piece of special cargo was placed. It was early days in containerisation, and the “tween-deck” was a reference to an in-between separation of the cargo holds in a conventional cargo ship.
Today, we know this solution as the 20’ or 40’ “Flat rack” which is used for machinery, pipes, boats and other types of out-of-size cargo.
Today’s Flat Racks in action; every transport is special, but the out-of-gauge cargo resembles the challenges posed by our customers 40 years ago…
Maersk Line has been carrying Special Cargo for more than 40 years and it is today a fully integrated part of the business. The segment is continuously growing, in size and complexity, and so are our capabilities. Maersk Line continues to invest in Special Cargo specific containers, digital capabilities and most importantly people. The Special Cargo team works closely with our customers to plan and execute the transport of the large and out-of-gauge items, that – even though they do not fit inside a container – still can benefit from the low-cost efficiencies of container shipping.
“Our customers have special requests, says Michael Juhler, head of Special Cargo, and due to our global network, amazing people and their deep expertise we are able to cater for far majority of these requests”.