For the Trans Global Projects Group (TGP), no location is too remote. But while the UK-based international project logistics specialist has handled numerous projects in some of the most inaccessible locations around the globe, even for industry professionals, Antarctica is a unique and challenging destination to serve.

TGP was awarded the contract for project logistics management for a shipment of equipment and construction materials to the British Antarctic Survey’s (BAS) Rothera Research Station at Rothera Point by BAM. The global construction and civil engineering company is in charge of removing Rothera Point’s old wharf and building a new one. The facility is to accommodate the UK’s new state-of-the-art polar research vessel, RRS Sir David Attenborough. Serving as a UK Hub for polar science, Rothera is located 900 miles south of the tip of South America on Adelaide Island, which is along the western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Expertise in logistics biosecurity

While Antarctica has the coldest and one of the harshest climates on Earth, it also has unique and sensitive ecosystems that can be threatened by the incursion of non-native species of plants and animals. The biggest logistical challenge facing the TGP team was ensuring the shipment headed for Rothera remained completely contamination-free and in compliance with the British Antarctic Survey Biosecurity Handbook and The Polar Code, which was enacted to minimise the risk of non-native species being introduced to the Antarctic continent.

Colin Charnock, TGP CEO, comments:

“Trans Global Projects won this contract thanks to our extensive track-record in biosecurity and quarantine procedures – most notably in our work with project shipments and logistics to Australia, which has some of the strictest biosecurity regulations in the world”. However, the Rothera project team faced another major challenge: no construction equipment or material is available on-site in Rothera. It is fair to say that this might be the most remote construction site in the world. This therefore necessitated TGP to work hand-in-hand with BAM to consolidate, prepare and ship almost all the supplies and equipment necessary for the wharf removal and re-construction at the research base on a single vessel charter.”

Over the course of several weeks in late October and November, a team of Trans Global Projects experts worked at a specially prepared site to direct all aspects of the decontamination and loading procedures at AV Dawson facilities at Teesport in Teesside, UK, which is well equipped to handle such extensive cargo treatments.

“TGP is a recognised leader and expert in the field of biosecurity logistics”, says Charnock. “We offer consultancy services and human resources to our partners at all steps of the process, from development of the biosecurity concept through to the implementation thereof.”

The decontamination process for the Rothera shipment was multi-faceted and exhaustive. Firstly, the Teesport biosecure facility underwent deep cleaning directly prior to commencement of receiving cargo. This specially scheduled cleaning of the facility was conducted in addition to a maintenance schedule of spraying insecticides, pesticides and herbicides in and around the facility on top of the manual inspection for and removal of weeds, rodents, insects and other pests. Secondly, all cargo intended for the November shipment to Rothera Research Station was inspected upon arrival and then washed using ultra high-pressure water jets. This decontamination process developed by TGP for this shipment is unique in its scope. “As far as we are aware, this project represents the first time such stringent export procedures have been carried out at a UK port facility”, explains Charnock. The cargo, where deemed necessary, was additionally treated with residual insecticide solutions. All containers and loading equipment underwent fumigation, and only timber compliant with the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures No. 15 (ISPM15) was used for export packing.

The shipment

The shipment departed from Teesside, UK, on 22 November for a 9,600-mile trip to Rothera – a journey estimated to take approximately four to five weeks. The largest pieces were two 300-tonne crawler crane cabs.  Overall 13,000 cbm + 85 containers of cargo were prepared and loaded on board the vessel, an F-Type multipurpose ship geared with two 125 mt cranes combinable to lift up to 250 mt and featuring a Polar Class PC7 certification (which corresponds to Finnish-Swedish lce Class 1A). The vessel itself also underwent a similar decontamination process in accordance with the biosecurity plan implemented by Trans Global Projects. During the short Antarctic summer, temperatures typically range between 0 to +5 degrees Celsius. However, it can snow at any time of year and because of its coastal location and the Southern Ocean low-pressure weather systems, temperatures can vary widely at any time. There is usually sea ice restricting sea traffic to the continent through to the end of November. Since Rothera Research Station is just south of the Antarctic Circle, both the vessel’s crew and the Rothera team will be able to take advantage of 24-hours of summertime daylight to unload the cargo.