The Largest Items Ever Shipped
4 minutes to read
At Hemisphere, we specialise in the transport of abnormal loads – cargo that cannot be carried in a standard shipping container because it is too large, too heavy or too awkward to fit. Abnormal loads demand a greater level of planning than your average cargo delivery, often requiring a detailed, bespoke itinerary to ensure a safe and efficient journey from door to door. With that in mind, we’ve scoured the history of shipping and haulage to find six of the largest and most unusual items to have ever been transported by road, air or sea.
Power station transformer
In 2013, the transportation of a power station transformer weighing an astonishing 640 tonnes brought motorway traffic to a standstill, with tailbacks stretching to 13 miles. Acknowledged as the biggest logistical project the UK has ever seen, the 100-metre long, 5-metre wide transformer’s carriage from Didcot power station to Avonmouth Docks in Bristol required nine months of planning. Two lanes of the M4 were blocked off for its 4mph crawl and a team of experts on hand to oversee the journey.
Gas power generator
Translated into English as ‘the inspiration’, the Antonov An-225 Mriya is the largest aeroplane ever built and was originally designed to transport the Russian space shuttle – but, in 2009, it delivered a gas power generator weighing 418,834lbs to Armenia, the heaviest ever cargo shipment by air. This record-shattering shipment required the An-225’s six turbines to carry the payload from Frankfurt in Germany to Yerevan in Armenia, and received a certificate from the Guinness Book of Records upon completion of the delivery.
Although the weight might not match up to that of major generators or transformers, one of the most notable abnormal loads in the history of freight delivery occurred in 1997 when an orphaned baby grey whale was found close to death off the coast of California. The young calf was nursed back to health at SeaWorld in San Diego and, once back to full health, it was hoisted onto the USCGC Conifer and released back into the wild. Weighing in at over 8,700kg, the whale was lifted by crane onto a truck fitted with a foam-rubber bed to reduce the impact of the load, while a police motorcade escorted the truck to the coast to ensure it reached its destination safely.
Water desalination unit
The record for the heaviest ever item moved by road freight is held by a Saudi Arabian logistics company. In 2012, Almajdouie organised the construction, assembly, delivery and installation of a water desalination unit the size of a football pitch, overseeing the project’s 4,700 mile passage from Korea to Saudi Arabia. The scale of the project required a purpose-built port to be created in Saudi Arabia in order to unload eight evaporator units totalling 41,000 metric tonnes.
The Statue of Liberty
Perhaps the most famous freight voyage of all concerns the Statue of Liberty, way back in 1885. The United States’ most iconic symbol was built in France by a sculptor named Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and had to be disassembled into 214 wooden crates prior to its ocean shipment to the USA, before being reassembled and installed in New York upon arrival. Weighing in at around 450,000lbs, the delivery required months of detailed planning to ensure it reached its destination without a hitch.
The transportation of a 32-metre tall gas scrubber was a sizeable task for Hemisphere, but one that was carried out with speed and precision. Although the carriage was a short distance from Liverpool port to Lancashire, there were plenty of obstacles to overcome; our project managers undertook a route survey and organised a police escort, as well as managing all required permits in order to transport eight dismantled abnormal loads quickly and securely.