1. What Is Project Cargo Transport?

Project cargo broadly refers to the global transportation or big, bulky, heavy and high-value equipment and parts intended for a given project.

It is also known as heavy lift and includes shipments of different components that require disassembly for purposes of shipment and reassembly following a delivery.

This definition goes to tap into details on the nature of cargo that is being transported incorporation with another set of ideas,

creativity and out of box solutions normally practiced in the international movement from a production center to its desired location.

Project Cargo

Project Cargo

Typically, this cargo type cannot be loaded on the existing 20’, 40’, 40HC or even the 45HC flatrack or on an open top container.

For that reason, it is referred to as a project cargo. This means that as a result of its weight and/or size, the cargo cannot be taken by a normal container. In such a case, it has to be transported as a bulk load.

Heavy lift cargo is classified as indivisible items weighing over a ton up to over a thousand tons and has widths and/or heights that exceed 100 meters.

Specialty vehicles, vessels, and equipment are needed to safely and effectively transport these items via land, air or sea.

wind blades transport

wind blades transport

Project cargo can be sourced internationally or from a single location. This type of cargo is mostly found in engineering, wind power, mining and construction industries.

A detailed engineering procedure is needed for a safe and secure transportation of this cargo type and at the same time stay within the set budgetary limits and deadline.

This can happen in several shipments or only one shipment with both covering a wide range of freight capacity and cargo value.

It could imply single or several pieces of equipment on transit from location A to B or various locations over a given set time. Transporting this type of cargo would require you to factor in every detail.

Therefore, a pre-planning process is vital for efficient operations of this nature. Keep up with efficiency in such complicated cargo operations remove the risks and cut down on costs.

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  • Specialized Handling of the Project Cargo

This type of cargo needs special transportation modes hence its name – “Project Cargo” or “Heavy Lift Cargo

There are a lot of demands in this transportation mode where there are unique designs for accommodating the safety requirements and for providing efficiency during operations.

For the wind blades, they get transported through hilly and mountainous regions and that is why a lot of care must be exercised to ensure safe operations.

Flatbed trucks cannot help in this application because the road to the cargo destination is not flat. Even if a flatbed truck was to be used, how long will it be?

Putting into consideration these factors, a special transportation means should be put in place. There are important aspects that must be studied especially prior to the merchandise leaving the factory.

A survey of roads to the destination should be conducted to

project cargo checking

Check width of road

check their width and the existence of such structures as bridges along the way. The bridge should be able to take the cargo weight.

Generally, considerations should be made on whether to widen the road by changing the position of the power poles or something close to that.

For this reason, a road survey is very critical. Once everything has been confirmed,

then road permits should be given out by the state and any other governmental authority based on the route that is to be taken.

Until then, a project cargo cannot be allowed to move.


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2. What Should Be Checked

The project cargo is not like the usual types of cargo. It needs individual transport planning.

With these cargo types, there is no standardization and therefore, each cargo is to be treated as an isolated case hence the need for planning for a custom solution.

In most cases, the cargo is oversized and may not be split over various schedule services. Transportation has to be made from one point to the next and then taken for installation to a desired place.

Having a plan for this is every important considering the times taken for the manufacture and building of the project cargo.

Ideally, the transportation process is very key in ensuring the value of the equipment is enhanced and its purpose met. Otherwise, it would be of no use if it can’t get to the designated location in the proper condition as desired.

For that reason, it is important to have a thorough check for everything and that includes the path through which the cargo will be taken and how it will be handled throughout the process.

Here are very important considerations to make in preparation for the loading and transportation of a project cargo.

Successful Project Cargo Transportation


2.1 Mandatory Checks and Assessments

Typical project cargo items are reactors, generators, turbines, boilers, towers, heater, boats, locomotives, some oil rig parts, military equipment, presses, reactors, satellites and production platforms.

Their weight ranges from about 1-1000 tons and could be over 50 meters in height and width.

Owing to the special needs of the project cargo, a successful transportation would require a close scrutiny of a number of things. Here is how to proceed with checks and things to take good notice of:

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  • The sudden change of weather

If there is a sudden change in weather during transportation operations, such as rainfall, snowfall, etc., cover the goods in time and take anti-skid measures on the vehicles to ensure that the goods arrive safely at designated locations.

  • Vehicle Failure

Before the transportation, notify the standby vehicle and maintenance personnel to standby.

If there is a problem with the transport vehicle on the way, immediately arrange for a maintenance technician to repair it.

If it is determined that maintenance is impossible, the standby vehicle shall be called in time to take emergency transport measures to ensure that it arrives at the designated place within the shortest possible time.

  • Examine and Prepare the infrastructure

All scenarios must be explored and examined to ensure that there is enough preparation for any unseen occurrences or needs.

Checks should be made on the need to invest in other equipment all the way to the temporary closing of a trade lane. Possible risks should be identified especially with the infrastructure network.

In most cases, it is important to do a survey and plan on the chosen route. This could include road curvature, street signs, overhead clearances, trees and any other thing that has a potential of causing an obstruction.

Successful Project Cargo Transportation

Successful Project Cargo Transportation

When such a procedure is done, most of the uncertainties that could interfere with a smooth movement of the cargo get eliminated especially in areas with dense population.

Other preparations should be made on the equipment, getting hoists and cranes in place to ensure that there is sufficient space both on the ground and in the airspace.

Any slight mistake during the planning process can translate to inflated transportation costs generally.

  • Road conditions surveyed

The land route of the large-scale equipment transported by the Project Department is repeatedly surveyed,

and the road conditions will be confirmed again on the day before the equipment is shipped and details of the transportation routes will be available.

In spite of this, it is still difficult to completely avoid the impediments to traffic caused by the construction of emergency road excavation.

In the event of such a situation, the site manager shall promptly take remedial measures.

The project manager will visit the site, coordinate the internal and external resources, and promptly propose a rectification plan for the transportation route.

In the shortest time, the construction department will complete the construction. The roads were rectified to ensure the smooth transportation of equipment;

  • Reinforcement

During transportation, In the case of loose bundles due to objective reasons,

follow-up quality control personnel and experts carefully analyze the causes of loosening and re-elaborate feasible reinforcement schemes to re-consolidate large pieces of equipment.

Project cargo reinforcement

Project cargo reinforcement

  • Force Majeure Emergency Plan

If there is a force majeure situation during the transportation, first set the transport equipment.

Keep it in a relatively safe zone, keep it in a safe place, use all available conditions to inform the owner of the incident and its dynamics, and carry out work in accordance with the owner’s authorization.

If the basic communication conditions are not available, do a good job of keeping related records and equipment until you get in touch with the owner or the event of force majeure is lifted.

After the impact of force majeure is eliminated, if there are conditions for continuing the carriage,

the project department will continue to implement the transportation plan on the premise of ensuring the safety of the equipment and transportation personnel.

Basically, you should have a contingency plan in place. A backup plan for unexpected occurrences in the event that the initial plan doesn’t go as expected should always be there.

In such an occasion, having an alternative option in place will be useful in minimizing the issues and in resolving them as they show up.

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2.2 Handling the Project Cargo

This is a very challenging and complex procedure where the services of specialized companies should be applied.  Each of the project cargoes is different and comes with special challenges and requirements different from each other.

There are certain key members of project cargo that must be included for each transportation procedure. A number of members of the crew assigned to the project have particular tasks that they are required to execute.

The officer in charge of loading the cargo has the responsibility for the procedure should have a thorough check and overview of the real status.

Additionally, the operators for the cranes and the one operating the ballast system is expected to operate and manage the situation.

A lot of preparation for the loading process must be done to avoid damages to the cargo and the transporting platform.

The Project Cargo should be safely secured for transportation. A very important consideration to make on Project Cargo transportation is in ensuring safety and workflow during the loading procedure.

The cargo should be well secured to prevent any fatalities leading to loss of vehicles, lives, cargo or even cause serious environmental hazards.

These project cargoes are complicated and costly and that means they cannot be readily picked from a warehouse. A heavy lift cargo is in most cases a customized order that takes long periods of time to manufacture.

They could take months or even years to make. Any slight damage may lead to serious issues for all parties involved.

Prepare and examination

Therefore, teamwork is very important. A well-function group of people that is flexible and highly motivated to handle these critical situations well and faster is thus needed. 

A number of factors should be factored in when dealing with oversized cargo.

In that case, it is important to engage logistics companies specialized in handling heavy lift cargo for a successful movement and transportation of critical and high-value items. Special attention throughout the process is needed for project cargo.

There should be a careful evaluation and detailed plan of how operations will be conducted. This is important because the costs involved in the event of a loss or damage for this kind of equipment can be huge to the tune of millions of dollars.

All precautions should, therefore, be taken by the logistic company to ensure the execution of an effective solution that will meet the needs of your project. In that case, here is what to do:

  • Look for a reliable partner

A successful heavy lift cargo transportation starts with the choice of a reliable partner. It is important to perfectly align all parties taking part in the transportation process.

Ideally, all of them should be well-connected earl enough and establish a clear plan that includes all processes.

Important factors to consider when looking for a logistics company for this kind of assignment include proper insurance, vast experience in handling heavy lift cargo and financial stability.

Finding reliable partners can effectively be done through the use of logistics networks where you can ask for references and being part of organizations like Project Professionals Group that has qualified freight forwarders.

Your logistics partner should have the following:

  1. Accurate and straight-forward pricing without hidden costs
  2. A wide knowledge of local hauliers, equipment and their manufacturers alongside materials and quick, flexible access to dedicated capacity
  3. Prioritizes proactive communication with fast response to issues and changes
  4. A proven track record and sufficient experience along with country knowledge
  5. A quality and well-trained engineering team
  6. Stable financial resources to take up some considerable amount of liability and risk
  7. Flawless execution
  • Check on regulations and customs

Conventional freight forwarding customs clearance is something to prioritize because of the hassle involved at times. You will encounter a number of regulations that are different based on where the cargo is being transported.

For project cargo, the procedure is somewhat more difficult than in other cases due to the complex nature of the cargo and the need to be clear with every detail.

Here, you need to make sure that there is a smooth transition and realize your deadlines as planned.

It is important to do a local market study on inspections needs and documentation establishing the cost implications of procuring specific parts in different locations with varying regulations.

  • Cargo Design

Bulky cargoes are of different size and shapes. Each one of them is usually in a unique and different transportation category defined by its design. All you need for your project cargo is a strong positioning and storage.

For that matter, you should make sure that you have the right vessel to handle your specific cargo and that each of the units in the stow can be secured properly.

different size project cargo

different size project cargo

The cargo should be protected from any damage risks by supplying it with suitable securing and lifting points, particularly when it’s very big and heavy to enhance its security.

Despite the size of the cargo, careful packaging and covering are needed during transportation to prevent it from corrosion and impact damage.

The inspection should be made on the cargo at the loading point to take note of any damage that could be pre-existent.

Each of these loads should be accompanied by a standard documentation that includes information defining the cargo, its weight, dimensions, safety details and its centre of gravity.

The provision of accurate and appropriate information is important to guarantee safe transportation.

Your chosen logistics company should have competence in the transportation of various high-value project cargoes that match international Project Cargo Services at highly affordable costs.

Regardless of the cargo destination, innovative solutions alongside technical engineering services should be applied to completely manage the project from the beginning to the end and make sure that delivery is made in a timely fashion.

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2.3 Keep on Improving

Ensure constant improvement of processes. Look back at what was accomplished in the past and consider the results of the project cargo transportation that was made.

Come up with areas to improve on to help in your future transportations for better results. The project cargo team should analyze the following:

  • Cargo complexity
  • Dimensions of parts and maximum weight
  • Delivery obligations of the client
  • Origin routes and facilities
  • Points of consolidation
  • Regulations on imports and exports
  • The requirements for delivery and installation

After realizing and planning for all these aspects, the execution can be made having identified the lowest net cost that is sustainable and after ensuring sustainability at the forefront of your focus.

The planning and the execution of the project cargo transportation needs a more resourceful thinking than is the case with any other logistics sector.


3. What Kind of Vehicles Are Commonly Used in Project Cargo Transportation by Road?

Looking at the demands for the transportation of Project Cargo by road, the need for specialized transportation vehicles is inevitable. Among the commonly used ones are the self-propelled modular transporter (SPMT) and the modular trailer.

3.1 Self-Propelled Modular Transporter

A self-propelled modular transporter also referred to as the self-propelled modular trailer is a platform vehicle with a wide array of wheels.

The SPMT is typically used for the movement and loading of massive equipment such as heavy bridge sections and other bulky industrial parts and components from the manufacturing plant to the installation site.

Compatible with goldhofer


Ideally, these parts and equipment are too huge and bulky to be carried by common trucks even though they could be used to provide braking and traction for the SPMTs when on inclines and steep descents. 

SPMTs have found a major application in various industries especially where the loading and transportation of oversized equipment are required.

Common areas of application include the oil and construction industries, the wind power sector, the Shipyard and offshore industry and plant construction sites among several others.  

Typically, an SPMT is a vehicle platform with a grid of computer-controlled axles. Ideally, there are 2 axles running across and other 4-8 axles running along the mainframe.

When two or even more axles are arranged side-by-side, this is referred to as an axle line. Each of these axles is controlled individually and therefore, weight can be distributed evenly and at the same time provide an accurate steering outcome.

The design and making of an SPMT is such that each of its many axles can swivel through an angle of 270°. Some manufacturers of these transporters may also offer up to a full motion of up to 360°.

Considering the weight of the Project cargo and its bulky size, it is important to go for a vehicle with high manoeuvrability features such as the SPMT.

All these axles are normally coordinated through a system of controls that make it possible for the SPMT to turn, spin in one place or even move sideways as required in a particular situation.

Some of the SPMTs you will find in the market allow the axles to telescope independently of each other to allow the load to stay flat and at the same time be distributed evenly over an uneven landscape.

modular trailer lifting

keep horizontality

Each axle can also be provided with an inbuilt hydrostatic drive unit.

There is also a hydraulic power pack that can be attached to your SPMT to provide sufficient steering power, which is also useful for suspensions and drive operations.

This power pack is normally driven by an internal combustion engine.

One power pack can be used to drive a string of SPMTs. For the reason that SPMTs usually carry the heaviest loads such as the project cargo, they move slowly at the speed of a mile per hour on occasions when it is fully loaded.

Some of the SPMTs can also be controlled by the driver using a hand-held control panel while others make use of a driver cabin.

Several SPMTs can be connected either side-by-side or lengthwise to take massive loads and equipment. The connected SPMTs can be managed and controlled from a single panel of controls.

Read More: SPMT Ultimate Guide – Self-propelled modular transporter Design & Specs

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SPMT Characteristics that Support Project Cargo

So, what are the key characteristics that make the self-propelled modular trailer a perfect platform for taking project cargoes? Here are some of the main reasons that qualify an SPMT for this kind of job:

  • Stability

Each of the trailer units can be grouped into 3 and 4 hydraulic fields. Each of the fields can keep hydraulic pressure to each of the axles in it.

spmt support

spmt support

This becomes possible for the trailer to make necessary adjustments for rugged terrain enhancing the stability of the cargo in transit. The transporter has a low loading height and wide wheel track to ensure that the stability is greatly enhanced as well.

  • Loading capability

The load-bearing platforms are free of torsion and are resistant to bending. Their design is meant for direct loading. The design of the platform and those of the hydraulics can take up to a maximum of 40 tons per axle line.

The platform trailer can be supplied with serrated aluminium plates for covering the track rods.

  • Power

The weight of the project cargo is massive and therefore, sufficient power is needed to handle this operation.

The power pack units (PPU) of an SPMT offers power to the hydraulic controls and systems managing the axle height, braking, steering and the powering of the transporter’s electrical systems.

spmt control


A diesel engine with a 350-kW power rating is used for these operations. The PPU is responsible for the supply of pressure oil needed for the steering, drive and lift operations of the hydrostatically driven self-propelled modular transporter.

  • Transport 

Equipment weights and dimensions are container-capable for transport means that are cost-effective throughout the globe. All the same, demobilization and mobilization cost of the axles at the designated place of work is itself a major issue of concern.

  • Configuration

All SPMTs are completely modular and that means that they can be connected either side by side or end-to-end to form various transport configurations as desired.

This is a very useful element especially for project cargoes where each cargo has unique demands for its safe transport to the desired location.

spmt combinations

spmt combinations


  • Different Axle Type and Configurations

Ideally, the self-propelled modular trailers are available in two types, namely the 4 axle and 6 axle configuration types. The axles are of three types: free-wheeling braked and propelled.

The Free-wheeling type has all axles in a free position. Acceleration and braking are controlled separately through the use of the power pack unit.  Braked Axle SPMT type is always left in a braked position.

During movement time, the brakes are released and then get powered by the power pack unit.

On the other hand, the Propelled axle SPMT type has the SPMT axles powered by the power pack unit to start them off and execute operations.

  • Control of Axles

Each of the SPMT’s axle is controlled as an independent unit through a computer steering system that allows the trailer to have a number of pre-programmed steering modes or modes that can be controlled manually.

Such capabilities make it possible to mechanically combine trailers or detach them and still operate as a single unit. With this kind of arrangement and set up, it becomes a lot possible to attain the desired movement of steering.

The trailer can also be lowered or raised up to 300mm. All these controls are made through a remotely-control system.


3.2 Modular Trailer

A modular trailer is also another option suitable for the loading and movement of heavy and bulky cargo like the project cargo. 

This is a series of special transportation vehicles used to carry huge and long cargoes that are not easy to disassemble to ease transportation.

It can comfortably take lengthy equipment that could otherwise not be taken by normal trucks.

Just like the SPMT, the modular trailer is commonly used in the transportation of equipment for power stations, in the iron and steel industry, the chemical industry and in the construction industry.

Modular trailers are also used in facilitating mining operations and procedures due to their great lateral stability they offer.

An SPMT that doesn’t have a power pack is comparable to a hydraulic modular trailer. The main difference that exists between the SPMT without the power pack unit and the modular trailer is the difference in the steering system.

The modular trailer makes use of a mechanical steering system. Another key difference that you will note is that the modular trailer can be connected through the use of a gooseneck and a drawbar unlike in the SPMT.

heavy duty transporter

Gooseneck Modular Trailer

The loading platform of the modular trailer vehicle is usually balanced during the transportation of equipment on rough and bumpy roads due to its excellent damping properties.

The brace kit of a modular trailer can achieve 3 or 4 brace points that ensure there is a uniform distribution of the load at each point. The four points also make sure that there is no a partial set.

The modular trailer’s steering system usually has a hydraulic planar pitman driver.

This way, the vehicle can attain minimum turning diameter and a normal drive through the adjustment of the hydraulic steering system and using various reasonable pitman layouts.

The supporting part assemblies for the trailer section have a solid box beam structure that can comfortably take heavy and bulky loads during loading and transportation.

It is usually made of a high-performance welding steel construction along with the mainframe longitudinal girder, the steering arm, the bogie frame and the loading platform as well.

This is what makes the modular trailer a perfect choice for the transportation of project cargo.

Read More: What is a Modular Trailer?

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There are standard practices that are involved in the transportation of project cargo.

Therefore, it is important to examine the best practices for application in order to cut down on expenses and minimize any risks associated with the shipments for the project.

There have been various sources of project cargo in the last few decades where companies were pushed to look for the most effective methods of transporting such heavy and huge loads that are quite costly to produce.

With the rise of globalization, the need for huge infrastructure projects increased internationally to realize the need of industries that support power plants, refineries, wind farms and mining operations.

With increased manufacturing cutting across all continents and with increasing big infrastructure projects and building sites internationally, the need for specialized transportation for heavy lift cargo became important.

We are in an era where massive structures and big-engineered over-sized cargoes are being transported from different origins to various international locations.

With the production of complex cargo materials and their procurement overseas, it is important for production companies that design,

build and supply the same to have shipping expertise as well because it is not just enough to build and sell or buy such equipment.

Moving them from one point to another has a high-cost implication, which when not planned well may not be economically feasible.

It is therefore important to work with expert logistics companies that can add great value to the equipment at each stage.

The heavy lift cargo transport should be pre-planned, maybe prior to the start of financing, cargo design and the sourcing process. Pre-planning is highly-needed for a successful project cargo transportation process.

This can save you huge costs, provide you with assurance and reduce unexpected occurrences. During the pre-planning process, make room for enough lead time to organize transportation details. 

The general success of your project is based on how the cargo is transported and delivered to your premises.

In this context, it is important to understand cargo needs and include certain practices into the process in order to avoid obvious issues,

reduce risk and end up with the best possible practices and outcome as you complete your project cargo transport requirements. Failure to meet any of these basic requirements for a successful project cargo transportation can be costly.

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