Lead Beneficiary



oversize cargo,
 Program Oversize Baltic
Wiesław Galor
Anna Galor 


Oversize cargo includes non-standard large and heavy pieces of cargo, such as electric transformers, reactor vessels, wind turbines, airplane fuselage or nuclear power plant components, which are usually part of advanced infrastructural high priority energy and technology projects. Oversize transport often needs to travel over a considerable distance. In many cases, national borders have to be crossed. Various modes of transport are used to carry oversize units, often including maritime transport. As there are problems to be solved in connection with this kind of transport, this paper presents an analysis of relevant issues.



Along with the development of economy there is an increasing number of shipments that, due to their size, weight or specific character of carriage, require individual solutions. Almost all major investment projects require transport of equipment and their components bigger than the size of trailers or containers. Non-standard cargoes create non-standard problems. Transport of such pieces is of crucial importance for the development of industry, power engineering and improvement of infrastructure. Oversize transport is indispensable for economic growth of every nation, but its organization varies in each country of the South Baltic region. The establishment of joint strategy, practices and the creation of new principles might enhance the economic competitiveness of the South Baltic region. The carriage of oversize cargo is usually a very important link of each infrastructural project, therefore it should be managed without redundant formalities, communication-based misunderstanding or extra investments in infrastructure. A consistent system could make the Baltic region more competitive in power engineering, industry and transport. This calls for an analysis of possible transport routes, both existing ones and planned transport corridors [1].

The most common examples of oversize cargoes are turbines, reactors, structural elements, all important components of each investment project. Issues raised in oversize cargo transport considerations include the reduction of carriage time, less bureaucracy and infrastructural problems. The Oversize Baltic project [7], implemented under the EU’s INTERREG project, may positively affect the following sectors:

-         Industry

Development projects will be easier to execute, the scope of industrial production may be extended, and huge structural or machine elements can be  manufactured far from seaports. This would lower the price of transport availability and operation in the region.

-         Transport

Opening of the Baltic Sea for oversize goods will make it more competitive on the global transport market. Oversize transport to Russia, Ukraine or Kazachstan may be conducted through the region of the South Baltic. The development of oversize transport will significantly affect the transport regulation and assure its safety.

-         Power engineering

The development of alternative sources of energy is vital in the South Baltic region. The growing production of electric power by wind farms has been gaining more and more importance in the region. Each aspect of wind-induced energy is connected with oversize cargo transport, an issue almost as important as the wind energy itself. The development and spreading of alternative energy sources is directed related with issues of oversize cargo transport. It should also be noted that there are plans to develop nuclear energy production in the region (power stations are planned in Germany, Lithuania, later in Poland).



Oversize cargo, also referred to as non-standard or overstandard, is cargo whose transfer requires the use of special  means of transport and lifting facilities with a capacity adequate for cargo weight [5]. Taking into account the dimensions, weight and shape of oversize cargo, we can divide them as follows [5]:

1.                 ordinary oversize cargo – all kinds of steel structures, small size industrial machines and equipment, working machines, small tanks and many others. Their weight does not exceed 25 tons, and their dimensions slightly exceed standard parameters allowed in road transport, i.e. length of 15-16 m, width of 3.5-4.0 m and height of 3.0-3.5 m. This type of cargo can be carried by normal road vehicles, that is a truck tractor with a semi-trailer, uncovered, equipped with proper marking equipment and securings;

2.        special oversize cargo – this includes, among others, large elements of combustion chambers for power stations, machine components for open pit mining, steel structures, tanks for food industry and breweries. With their large dimensions, these cargo pieces often happen to have relatively small weight. Therefore, there is no adverse effect on the road surface, but there are restrictions due to the cargo parameters. Some pieces of cargo may be 5 m long,  7 m wide and 6-7 m high ;

3.        heavy lifts – these include nachines and equipment for civil engineering, boilers, various types of tanks, housings for power plant machines, ship parts (hull sections, superstructures, hatch covers, etc.),

4.        rail wagons, tram cars, complete technological lines for metallurgical, automobile, chemical or power engineering industries. The weight of such pieces generally ranges from 70 to 100 tons;

5.        heavy compact lifts – machines such as transformers, generators and turbines. Their characteristic feature is a large weight relative  to volume. The same refers to industrial presses or marine engine crankshafts. Some of these may weigh 200, even 300 tons. They can be transported by land, where multi-axle semi-trailers  are needed for the carriage;

6.                 spacious cargoes – these include various types of structures, bridge spans, drilling rigs, cranes (fixed and mobile), large diameter pipes, port gantry cranes etc. These pieces of cargo may weigh, say,  900 tons and have a height of 40 metres. Such objects cannot be carried by road; the only way is by sea, sometimes by river;

7.                 long pieces – mainly include structural components for civil engineering projects, e.g. spans, pillars, gantry crane or wind turbine elements; other type comprises reactors and columns for the chemical and refinery industries; their length may reach 40, even 60 metres, while the other parameters do not exceed standard sizes.

Oversize cargo carriage requires comprehensive transport and forwarding services of loaded or empty vehicles with the weight, axle loads and dimensions (length, breadth, height) exceeding the values authorized in road traffic regulations [10]. Such transport may be mainly carried out by land (road and rail) and by water (inland waterway and sea transport).  Occasionally, oversize cargo is carried by air.



The first actions to be taken while preparing to undertake the carriage of a wind turbine include the identification of the cargo, the verification whether the carrier is capable of the transport and selection of the vehicles. The company interested in such carriage order should be able to carry at least half of the components of one tower, including the heaviest and highest elements. The carriage of the remaining parts may be subcontracted to other transport companies.

The next step is to prepare an optimized route. In the route planning process the following have to be taken into account: road width, signs and posts placed by the road, width and air clearance under flyovers and bridges, roundabout size, authorized road surface load by the vehicle, etc. Sometimes the straight distance to the point of destination is 100 km, but the transit route of a particular element may be as long as 300 km, because certain diversions are necessary. This is due to the height of flyovers and bridges (in Poland the average clearance is 4.5 m), radius of road bends, electric rail tractions, bad road surface condition etc. Besides, oversize vehicles have to avoid road sections under repair. Some obstacles, such as road signs, have to be temporarily removed. Another difficulties appear at roundabouts built along national roads, and at safety islands for pedestrians, especielally those with permanent road signs. What is also lacking is immediate access to information about the capacity and air clearance of bridges and flyovers, their height, or other restrictions found on each road. As a result of all these difficulties, the end recipient pays a higher transport charge, while carriage operations take longer. Figure 1 shows an example of a wind turbine element transported by road [9].




Fig. 1 Road transport of a wind turbine hub. 


In rail transport oversize cargo is the one that cannot be carried without extending the clearance gauge counted from the rail track. The obstacles may include semaphores, crossing attendant’s boxes, signs, signal boxes, bridge edges etc. The mentioned clearance gauge is the most important parameter for the rail transport. Specialized wagons may accept much heavier cargo pieces than road vehicles. The number of their axles is sufficient to get an acceptable track load per metre. However, problems arise when an oversize piece of cargo has a length of about 70 metres, e.g. tower with a generator, and at some rail track bends it will not get through [3].

The carriage of extraordinary cargo in Poland is performed in compliance with the Directive of Transport and Maritime Economy Minister as of 28 January 2000. The transport has to be carefully thought over and prepared in detail. Quite often the planning process takes a few weeks. Rail oversize and extraordinary cargo transport, due to the shape, size, weight, securing and the transport route, requires dedicated wagons as well as special organizational and logistic measures.

Transport organizers have to choose the right route and special vehicles, then work out the plan of loading and securing the cargoes. Transport permits and cargo insurance are needed. The shipper of an extraordinary cargo piece should notify railway authorities, at least 30 days prior to dispatch, and  60 days if the transport goes abroad. Before the shipment is accepted for carriage, the railway company checks (at consignor’s presence), whether it is correctly loaded, lashed and secured. Fig. 2 presents a railway shipment of electric power turbine [4].



Fig. 2. Rail transport of an oversize cargo


The number of oversize heavy and super heavy cargoes in global maritime transport is on the rise. Handling of these untypical pieces of cargo requires proper port infrastructure,  as well as skillful personnel that participates in cargo operations. Besides, particular need arises to assure safety of navigation for vessels carrying such pieces, especially in restricted waters [2]. At present, heavy lifts are handled in ports that have relevant experience and appropriate equipment. Super heavy and heavy cargo pieces belong to the group of oversize and heavy cargoes, i.e. cargoes whose dimensions and/or weight exceed standard freight parameters, which calls for specialized vessels and specific cargo-handling methods.

Super heavy cargo is one that weighs as much as several thousand tons, while its dimensions are expressed in hundreds of metres. These types of cargo include e.g. drilling platforms and marine wind turbine bases. Their enormous parameters require individual approach to loading and unloading operations. The port location is one essential aspect decisive for the port capability of handling heavy and super heavy cargoes. It is the location  that makes some of the seaports unable to handle the heaviest and largest pieces of cargo. Only port’s close proximity to the sea makes it competitive on the market of super heavy cargo pieces. Over short distances such cargoes may be towed to the place of destination or transported over longer distances by the so called heavy lift carriers. These are vessels for the carriage of oversize and heavy cargo, including super heavy and heavy lifts [8]. Fig. 3 presents an example of transporting 1600-ton bases on barges, heading for a wind farm in the Danish region of Rodsand [6]. The bases were prefabricated in the Atlantycki Basin, the seaport of Świnoujście.  It is worth noting that the prefabrication of heavy concrete bases took place directly on barges moored along the quay. After the production cycle had been completed, the barges were transported to the offshore destination. The concrete foundations were moved from the barges to the sea bottom by a powerful floating crane.




Fig. 4. Transport of submarine concrete bases for wind turbines.


The Oversize Baltic project, implemented under the the EU Interreg (South Baltic) project, is expected to affect various sectors of the economy: industry, power engineering and transport.

The main aims of the Oversize Baltic project are as follows:

1.        Development of oversize cargo transport strategy that will increase the competitiveness of the South Baltic region;

2.        Improvement of information network increasing the efficiency of oversize transport in the region of the South Baltic (integrated information-control point);

3.        Growth of oversize transport trade in the region through established routes, adjusted transport infrastructure and increased transport effectiveness;

4.        Transporting oversize cargoes by safer methods;

5.        Improvement of commercial and infrastructural co-operation of the developing regions taking part in the global competition of transport providers.


[1]        Galor A., Salmonowicz H.: Bałtyckie otoczenie polskich portów morskich. Materiały V Konferencji Naukowej „Porty Morskie 2005”. Szczecin 2005.

[2]        Galor W.

[3]        Grześkowiak A.: Logistyka dla ponadgabarytów.  Polska Gazeta Transportowa z dnia 22.12.2005.

[4]        Mincewicz J.: Trudne przewozy kolejowe. Polska Gazeta Transportowa z dnia 8.10.2008.

[5]        Neider J.: Transport  międzynarodowy, Polskie Wydawnictwo Ekonomiczne, Warszawa 2008.

[6]        Nysted Offshorewindfarm at Rodsand . Per Aars Lee Presentation A/S. Danmark, 2007.

[7]        Oversize Baltic.

[8]        Serafin-Kowalska I.: Charakterystyka portu przystosowanego do obsługi ładunków super ciężkich i ciężkich. Materiały VII Konferencji Naukowej „Porty Morskie 2007”. Szczecin 2007.

[9]        Sobieraj N.: Transport ładunków ponadgabarytowych na przykładzie firmy Josef Buller GmbH & Co. KG. Praca dyplomowa inżynierska. Akademia Morska w Szczecinie, Szczecin 2009.

[10]     Ustawa z dnia 21 marca 1985 r. o drogach publicznych (Dz. U. 2007.19.115 z dnia 27 lutego 2007 r.).



 Project Partners


Federal Association of SME's, Rostock

NPPE Klaipeda Shipping Research centre



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