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How Machinery Moves Around the World

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Have you ever wondered how the world’s largest and heaviest pieces of machinery and equipment move around the world? Teams of skilled professionals work with boats, trucks, trains, and even planes to move cargo in disassembled and assembled states. Each method has its benefits and setbacks, making them important considerations for anyone relocating equipment.

Air Cargo

two planes sitting in an airport with cargo containers and trolleys around them.
Planes can be loaded with cargo containers, like cargo ships

Believe it or not, some equipment can ship via air freight. Aircraft technology has come a long way, and some of the world’s largest planes, such as the Boeing 747-8 Freighter, can carry 900,000 pounds or more for flights over 13 hours!

Although possible, shipping by plane is not commonly utilized. It is reserved for machines that need to be moved across the world quickly. Air freight can reduce shipping time by 20-30 days but is 4-5 times the cost of road transport and 12-16 times the cost of sea shipping.

Sea Transport

A black cargo ship with large stacks of containers on it. A couple with a dog is looking on from the beach.

When moving equipment from one continent to another, the most common transportation method is by boat. Sea transport is achieved via container shipping, lift-on/lift-off, and roll-on/roll-off methods. Container shipping is a safe option for smaller machines as the steel containers protect them from weather conditions.

On standard, containers are 20-40 feet. Lift on/lift off and roll on/roll off are used for larger loads, known as LoLo and RoRo. For LoLo, industrial cranes lift the machines and equipment off the ship’s deck and onto the truck bed to finish transport or vice versa. Similarly, RoRo is used for machines with wheels or tracks since workers can drive them on and off the ships.

A large crane lifting a train car off of a cargo ship. Machinery is often moved around the world using this method.

Machines shipped overseas but can’t be containerized are susceptible to the elements such as wind, salt, and water which can lead to corrosion. Rustproofing via galvanization, paint, plating, or shrink-wrapping is crucial to the overseas shipping process! You can learn more about these processes in our Preparing Equipment for Overseas Shipping article.

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Road Transport

Road transport is almost always the best option when machines aren’t moving across oceans. We use a fleet of low-bed trailer trucks, specialized tractors, and floats to move heavy and awkward machines across the province, country, and continent. We also use forklifts and gantries that can lift over 120,000 pounds to maneuver the pieces in, out, and around facilities.

A person using a gantry to move heavy machinery.

When transporting via the road, planning is crucial. Not only do companies have to schedule around production times, but they also have to take into account toll roads and weight and height restrictions on their planned routes.

Although less standard now, some equipment still ships via freight trains. This is an excellent option for extremely heavy pieces or ones that are awkwardly shaped. Both truck and train transport leave the equipment exposed to rain, snow, and other elements on long-haul journeys. Like sea transport, the cargo must be rustproofed with either shrink-wrap or galvanization techniques.

Ready Machinery Movers specializes in heavy machine transport across Canada and the United States. We can also help with exporting machines worldwide by assisting with rustproofing, shrink-wrapping, containerization, and rail car tie-downs.

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