Heavylift services in East Africa
The enterprise Steder Group FZCO, a subsidiary of the Rhoon-based Dutch freight forwarding and logistics service enterprise Steder Group BV, specialises in heavylift and project cargo activities in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan.
The subsidiary Steder Group FZCO was founded early in 2011. Gerben Langstraat, director of the still-young service provider, told the ITJ recently that «after two years of conducting intense research, we decided that the time had come to take action and to found an independent company. The firm started out with seven combinations, which were based at its headquarters in Djibouti. Within a year this number had increased to 20 units. Because the equipment that we deploy was not previously available in the regional market there was also no local knowledge on how to operate it. So we started to train drivers, crane drivers, riggers and the like intensely.»
The Steder Group has a fleet of vehicles that is able to move individual pieces up to 50 m long, as well as units weighing more than 300 t. The infrastructure challenges the corporation faces are considerable, however, according to Langstraat. The resources available in East Africa are sometimes rather basic.
The specialist Steder Group FZCO is based in Djibouti, and is active mainly in Ethiopia. Its European staff teams up with numerous local Djiboutian and Ethiopian operations and maintenance staff. «We bring know-how and at the same time we transfer knowledge,» Langstraat said. A lot of the Dutch company’s projects come from China, making for what he calls an interesting mix of cultures.
Steder Group FZCO’s heavylift specialists recently completed the transportation of parts for a 54 turbine wind farm in Ethiopia. The consignments included blades, nacelles, tower sections, foundation rings and numerous containers with smaller parts.
The 800 km round-trip from Djibouti to the final destination in Ethiopia and back took about nine days. The route included Ethiopia’s highlands, with a lot of mountain passes. Climbing inclines with more than 12% gradients makes the equipment suffer and maintenance thus becomes an even bigger problem.
«Traffic is a big issue here in these parts of Africa. It is rather dangerous and plenty of accidents happen. We have to be very careful. The main obstacles are things that happen every day on the road, The conditions vary from day to day, and of course the rainy season has a big influence on our operations. But it’s fantastic, on the other hand, to face such interesting challenges. It’s sort of pioneering work here,» Langstraat elaborated.
Gigantic dam project
Steder is involved in many large project cargo undertakings in East Africa, including the huge so-called Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam project. Steder has already transported large pieces of earth-moving equipment from the port of Djibouti to the construction site, which is approximately 1,800 km away, on the Blue Nile close to South Sudan (approximately 40 km east of the border) in Ethiopia’s Benishangul-Gumuz region. The undertaking’s 5,250 MW hydro-electric power station is expected to become Africa’s largest such facility when it comes on stream in 2017, which is what the plan currently foresees.
Steder also specialises in placing heavy machines on foundations by jacking and sliding. The availability of cranes in the region is a major issue, Langstraat added, so by using this method Steder can operate safely and independently without needing the perfect equipment, and can nevertheless place heavy machines on their foundations at the constructions sites or sub-stations involved.
A one-stop shop
Amongst Steder’s numerous advantages is the fact that the company knows the country very well. It also has its own project forwarding and heavylift handling equipment. The Steder Group is keen to make sure that it has everything in its own hands. Thus the company makes sure that it is in charge of the loading and unloading of the heavylift vessels it serves in the port of Djibouti itself. It hires and trains local people, operates its own maintenance and repair workshops, and keeps everything under its own control. As for the current outlook, Langstraat is pretty optimistic about the coming year. «The order book is positive.»