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The world’s biggest eye on the sky

Hapag-Lloyd ships the “world’s biggest eye on the sky”: Interview with Paolo Orsi and Benjamin Celis

Interview by Hapag-Lloyd:

Giant telescopes will lead to greater advances in astrophysical knowledge, enable deeper exploration of our universe and provide sharper views of cosmic objects than ever before. Hapag-Lloyd is helping to make this kind of exploration possible. For example, the shipping line is shipping the components for a giant telescope from Europe to South America. We spoke to Paolo Orsi, Senior Manager Reefers/Specials/Breakbulk/DG from Italy, and Benjamin Celis, Specialist Sales Execution for Special Cargo in Chile, about this amazing project.

Paolo, Benjamin, congratulations on securing this exceptional project, known ELT (Extremely Large Telescope). Could you kindly explain what makes this project so unique for Hapag-Lloyd?

Paolo: This telescope will play a very important role in astronomical research, and the scientific community has a big focus on it. It will mainly be used for deep-space observation owing to the enormous quantity of light that the telescope can gather. Once the enormous telescope and instruments of ESO’s ELT are up and running, scientific observations of the night sky can commence. It’s definitely a big honour for Hapag-Lloyd to be taking part in it.

Benjamin: Also, in addition to being one of the largest telescopes in the world, its main purpose is to search for planets similar to Earth. A telescope like that isn’t built every day – and we are very happy to be the main carrier.

A project like this isn’t shipped overnight. What is the general timeline for shipping the components of the “world’s biggest eye on the sky”, as it is called?

Benjamin: The total volume of the entire project is around 3,000 40-foot containers with at least 60% being open-top containers, and we expect an overall break-bulk volume of around 15,000 tonnes. Another portion will be routed via RO/RO vessels using MAFI trailers for the heavy-weight cargoes, whereas the biggest parts of the dome will be handled by chartered LO/LO vessels.

Paolo: Another thing worth mentioning is that the first components were already shipped in late 2017. Excavation for foundations and soil strengthening started in the first half of 2018. Since then, there has been a continuous flow of materials – including via containers, RO/RO, break bulk and air freights. In fact, components will keep being shipped there for the next six years.

Any other interesting facts about this project?

Paolo: I am very impressed by how many factors have had to be taken into consideration in terms of design. The main structure of the ELT telescope supports the optics and the instruments during astronomical observations in addition to keeping the telescope stable under all conditions, including when there are strong winds or earthquakes. In fact, the design has to satisfy two conflicting demands: The structure must be strong enough to keep its components stable and precisely aligned, but it must also be light enough to keep the gigantic ELT from buckling under its own weight.

To give you a sense of the scale of the project, here are some figures: The dome weighs 6,100 tonnes and includes 30 million bolts. The main structure weighs 3,700 tonnes. Roughly 10,000 tonnes of steel were used to make the telescope. And the structure houses approximately 1,500 kilometres of fibre-optic lines.

One last question: Has this project made you more interested in astronomy?

Paolo: I am deeply convinced that curiosity is the fuel of our life regardless of the environment. Be it our working or private lives, you have to be curious.

Benjamin: I think astronomy is fascinating because the Earth is so small compared to other planets or stars and because we humans know so little about the universe. So I am very excited about what the ELT telescope will discover!

This article is shared by courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd. 257 modern ships, 11.8 million TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) transported per year, around 13,900 motivated employees in 418 offices in 137 countries. Hapag-Lloyd is a leading global liner shipping company and a powerful partner. More news about Hapag-Lloyd:

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