International transport and logistics company Operail carried a record quantity of non-standard freight for clients last year.
Based on Operail statistics, the company drafted 20 per cent more loading schemes for almost e non-standard freight transport last year than in the year before, and moved almost a third more wagons loaded with non-standard freight. “In total, we moved 924 wagons with 332 special loading schemes on Estonian railway infrastructure in 2018,” said Kirill Spektor, chief specialist of freight conditions at Operail.
The number of special projects transiting through Estonia is the reason for the increase in non-standard freight volumes. For example, last year Operail transported one of the largest cranes in the world, the Sarens Giant Crane SGC-140, whose lifting capacity is over 3,000 tonnes and which was disassembled and transported to Kazakhstan in 49 wagons. “It is difficult to predict and anticipate the volume of loading schemes for this year. What is clear is that in the last ten years, the volume of loading schemes drafted for special projects has more than doubled,” said Spektor. Loading of goods based on confirmed loading schemes usually takes place at Paldiski’s North and South Ports, but last year, there were also loading activities at Muuga Port, for example.
Non-standard loads are considered to be freight that exceeds the usual dimensions as well as heavy loads based on the technical specifications in the International Rail Freight Agreement. The instructions determine whether the freight fits within the loading gauge limits or exceed them and therefore require special instructions for transport. “The normal loading gauge on the railway is a width of 3250 mm, a height of 4000 mm up to the narrowed portion, and a maximum height of 5300 mm from the top of the track,” explained Spektor.
In general, non-standard loads are transported from Estonia to Central Asia and Russia. In order to transport oversized freight to the country of destination, in addition to the local railway administration, Operail must coordinate the loading and securing schemes with Russian Railways, whose officials communicate directly with the railway authorities of the destination country. “A separate route is developed for the wagons from the origin station to the terminal station, and the freight is transported primarily at night so as not to interfere with the running of passenger trains,” said Spektor.
Operail has transported a variety of non-standard loads including wagons, cranes, bulldozers, graders, combines, tractors, excavators, roadwork machinery, crushing equipment, trucks, dump trucks, metal structures, rollers, boxed equipment, 50-metre-long rails, disassembled boats, and other loads by rail.
It is necessary to prepare the loading scheme in order to ensure the safety of the cargo. Goods moving on the railway must fit within the dimensions and the plan must take into account signal lights, retaining walls, platforms, bridges, tunnels, contact lines and other obstacles. The loading scheme for the freight is valid for ten years and may be used repeatedly, on condition that the loading and securing of the goods corresponds to the loading scheme. It must also include a graphic overview of the mounting and securing of the load, technical requirements and calculations, and the goods clearance statement.