Manuka Lighting

Trans-global transport of giant lighting masts for the Manuka Oval in Canberra, Australia

The challenge

Spatial came on board in September 2012, giving the UK-based independent forwarder less than four months to pull the project together – and two of those would be inside the container!

Timescales were limited by the fixed date of the first 'day-night' match, combined with the manufacturing schedule and the ocean transit time – 43 days from port-to-port, plus periods at both ends for customs clearance and inland transportation.

The crucial requirements were the co-ordination of the international carriers – ocean, road and air – and the limited timescales and physical restrictions on the size of the cargoes.  Items had to arrive in strict order to ensure quick and efficient installation on site.  And the clock was ticking from the start.

The brief

In 2012 a British lighting manufacturer was awarded a valuable contract to supply 564 floodlights attached to six bespoke 45-metre tall masts to the largest cricket ground in the Australian capital city, Canberra.  The cost of the project was A$5.3 million – which was jointly funded by the Australian federal and territory governments.

Known as the Manuka Oval, the 13,550-seat capacity stadium had been hosting daytime cricket matches since 1930.  Australians needed to wait until 29 January 2013, however, for the inaugural 'day-night' cricket game featuring the Australian Prime Minister's XI.

The date of this high-profile match was fixed; the funding for the lighting had been committed by the PM; and manufacturing was underway 10,548 miles distant in the UK.  By early autumn 2012 all that was left was to get the bulky – yet easily damaged – lamps and towers to their destination in time for installation and testing before the match.

The solution

Refusing to be bowled over by the scale of the challenge, Spatial Global's project team devised an operation that encompassed the movement of out-of-gauge cargo on a critical timescale and delivery sequence.

The team was meticulous about gathering information, and co-ordinated meetings and conference calls with design and manufacturing personnel, plus the contractors on site.  At the same time it consulted with the suppliers to ensure that reliable carriers were selected, capable of accommodating the cargo and delivering it on schedule.

Because of the tight delivery deadline, some large items had to be sent by airfreight.  On site in the UK to view the construction of the masts, Spatial worked with the manufacturing team and the airline to ensure that the cradles and frames used for transportation fully met the detailed specifications.

For the ocean freight component of the transport, Spatial repositioned a significant quantity of open-top containers in the UK to ensure they were available for export on the required schedule.  In the event nineteen 40' containers were used in sea transport, carrying 1,140 cubic metres of freight and weighing 146 tonnes.  When a random examination by customs left one loaded container quayside, this had to be re-routed quickly from the UK to meet the rest of the cargo on its way to Sydney.

Although most of the consignment was shipped by sea freight, over 23 tonnes travelled by air

Although most of the consignment was shipped by sea freight in open-top containers, over 23 tonnes travelled by air

For the airfreight, Spatial moved seven shipments totalling 177 cubic metres and weighing 23.5 tonnes.  The cargo needed to be security screened – but with some components 9 metres long and over 2 metres wide, primary X-ray screening was not an option.

Aircraft with the necessary freight capacity were also unable to land at the manufacturer's closest major airport, EMA (East Midlands Airport in the UK), but Spatial saved its customer money by working with regional airline colleagues and providing a team qualified to perform hand searches at EMA all the same – rather than having the task undertaken at the busier London Heathrow Airport (LHR).  After completing the screening, the goods were then sent on by truck to LHR where they were loaded into the nose of a 747 freighter for the flight to Australia.

Not all the cargo originated in the UK; the lamps, for example, were manufactured by the supplier's sister company in Spain.  Shipments comprising a total of 88 cubic metres were despatched via airfreight from continental Europe.

When severely limited air freight capacity into Sydney looked like hampering the project, Spatial refused to be stumped.  It immediately opted for alternative airports – re-routing freight into Melbourne and Gold Coast (in the south of Queensland).  It fought hard to obtain commitments on specified dates, rather than simply agreeing to flights as and when suitable volume was available.

For normal commercial freight, unloading facilities and vehicle access are a given.  But delivery to a sports ground in the middle of Australia's capital city was a different ball game.  Without loading docks or ramps, all the goods had to be craned off their transport in a neighbouring field.


Maintaining extremely tight control over its expenditure and adopting efficient packing and cargo configurations meant Spatial was able to reduce the customer's freight costs by 35% compared with its closest competitor.

The Manuka Oval at dusk with the new lighting masts in position

The Manuka Oval: After testing between 23 and 26 January 2013, the first day-​night match was held successfully on the 29th


It is in the nature of international shipments that external forces often come into play to create unplanned events that must be handled swiftly and effectively.  What proves any forwarder is how these unforeseen situations are managed.

By providing 24–7 support, high visibility, detailed planning, impressive levels of both creativity and attention to detail, plus excellent communication with its customer and agents throughout, Spatial worked around all such difficulties without cost overruns – delivering on time and on budget.

See BIFA Award #2...

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