Wholly owned by investment company Oaktree, the company operates a modern fleet of 19 vessels averaging five years in age, equipped with cranes with a combined lifting capacity of 1,400tonnes that can operate independently of local infrastructure. All are ice-strengthened and can travel along sea routes with an ice thickness of up to 0.8mtr.
As a company HHL emerged phoenix-like from the ashes of failed Beluga Shipping, which was declared insolvent in 2011, Oaktree selling off some older tonnage in the fleet and relocating the company’s HQ from Bremen to Hamburg.
Given the huge industrial development projects now taking place in northern Russia, the heavylift specialist is now eyeing transits along the Northern Sea Route (NSR) more often. The HHL New York and HHL Amazon, which both hold Ice Class E3 equivalent to Russian Arc.4 (Finnish-Swedish Ice Class 1A), successfully completed voyages along the western boundary of the NSR in late 2015, delivering the heat exchanger for an LNG plant as well as other power generation equipment.
"The NSR is an increasingly important route and our use of it nearly doubled in the last year," says HHL md and cco Joerg Roehl. "However, it takes careful preparation, as well as experience and the right equipment in order to succeed."
Roehl believes that the reason a number of other leading heavy lift operators - including Rickmers Linie and SAL Heavy Lift - are based in Hamburg is that customers with precious one-off, outsize cargoes prefer to trust companies with an ingrained tradition of cargo handling expertise. In the case of Hamburg, that expertise dates back a few centuries, he points out, to the days of the Hanseatic League which dominated north European trade from around 1500 to 1800.