As seen by the cargo superintendent

Interview with Albert Snijders, cargo superintendent

The Danish authorities have initiated the Fjord Link project to build a new bridge over the Roskilde fjord. The 8.2 km four-lane link will be located just south of Frederikssund. The new bridge consists of 492 concrete segments that are being constructed in Szczecin, Poland. The bridge is planned to open in 2019, so the final sections of the bridge need to be in Denmark by December 2018. That’s a logistical challenge where everything depends on planning, timing, and professionalism. So we decided to ask Wagenborg cargo superintendent Albert Snijders about it. He is closely involved in the project as regards design, calculation, drawing, construction, and delivery of stowage plans, transport frames, and lashing systems.

Over the past few months, Albert and his colleagues have been supervising the project. They have done so partly from the office, but mainly at the loading location in Szczecin and the unloading location in Frederiksværk, Denmark. Albert was in charge of ensuring that the ship was loaded and unloaded according to plan. He tells us about the project.

“I – or a cargo superintendent colleague – am often present at the first loading and unloading to guide things.”

Tell us a bit about your background and your work at Wagenborg

“I’ve been working in the shipping sector since I was 16, and for the last 27 years I’ve been at Wagenborg. I started as second mate on the Maasborg and I’ve since had a nice career with the company as first mate and captain. In my latest position I gradually started working as a cargo superintendent, specifically for transporting paper to Philadelphia. I gradually took on a lot more of that kind of work, and nowadays I work on it fulltime from Finland.”  

What exactly does a cargo superintendent do?

“A cargo superintendent is responsible for setting up, managing, and coordinating ship-specific loading issues. That involves practical things like drawing up stowage plans, but also thinking up different or new ways of lashing and securing cargo so that you can load more efficiently or ship more economically. I often play an advisory and mediating role between the ship on the one hand and the office/freight department on the other. Basically, I deal with cargo operations and everything that involves.” 

That sounds very theoretical. How does it work in practice?

“As a cargo superintendent, you spend a lot of time in ports all over the world. That means you see how ship loading is handled in various different ways. You pick up good ideas that you can use elsewhere. In Finland, for example, they used to use a platform/spreader system for loading rolls of paper. Then alternative systems were introduced, such as hydraulic excavator-type cranes, as a result of which the platform/spreader systems were used less. In Canada, that system, combined with the on-board cranes on our A-ships, proved to be a perfect alternative for Resolute Forest Products. So there are numerous specific examples of practical assistance to customers such as SSAB, Outokumpu, Alcoa, Prysmian, and now Geodis.”

“There are numerous specific examples of practical assistance of a cargo superintendent to customers such as SSAB, Outokumpu, Alcoa, Prysmian, and now Geodis.”

What can you tell us about the Geodis project?

“Wagenborg Projects & Logistics was initially given the project via Helsinki Chartering. Ultimately, I drew up a stowage plan for a Saimax type of ship. We had to use that type of ship because of the 3.5 metre depth restriction at the loading location in Szczecin. And the ship could also not be any longer than 100 metres. The dimensions of the hold on this type of ship meant that it couldn’t quite accommodate three bridge elements one behind the other. Because the hold was just too short (or the bridge sections too long), we came up with the idea of placing the middle stack of bridge sections on raised frames. That meant we could fit three stacks of 3 or 4 bridge elements into the hold. We could also position two more bridge sections on deck and still comply with the IMO sightline restrictions. That way we were able to ship 11 or 12 bridge sections per trip to Frederiksværk. In total we planned 44 trips for all the bridge sections. After that, we were able to get to work designing, constructing, and supplying special transport frames and a lashing system for this loading method in Szczecin. And we did all that in just three weeks!”

How did it work out in practice compared to on the drawing board?

“It’s important that theory and practice fit together seamlessly. That’s why I – or a cargo superintendent colleague – am often present at the first loading and unloading so as to guide things. At the beginning of March, I was in Szczecin with Andreas Beikes to work with the crew to load the MV Noorderlicht according to plan. That first trip would act as a pilot trip in order to prevent any problems on later trips. It also meant that we could then make several trips in a row later on without difficulty. During loading it turned out that fixing the elements without welding worked out just fine. Apart from a few minor adjustments here and there, the whole system worked beautifully according to plan!”