Tara is a legendary research schooner. It has made 10 expeditions since its initial launch in 2003. World Courier is proud to have served as logistics partner for the past five years.
On May 28, 2016, Tara launched once again with World Courier aboard. The destination: the Pacific Ocean to explore the hidden diversity of coral reefs and gain a better understanding of their capacity to adapt to climate change. Coral reefs are critical to the health of the ocean and to mankind but they are also fragile — which makes packaging and shipping samples of them tricky.
Using dry ice shippers, the majority of the coral reef samples will maintain a temperature requirement of -80°C. In less than 48 hours, the samples must be packed and shipped from Tara Pacific’s location to arrive at its corresponding laboratory. Depending on the sampling protocol, some zooplankton samples will ship ambient, buffered in ethanol. The mix of water and ethanol they require classifies the shipments as dangerous goods, which adds to regulatory compliance challenges. Because the focus of Tara Pacific is on coral origin RNA and DNA, the samples must be considered as endangered species and therefore meet regulations set under the CITES treaty. So in addition to being irreplaceable, further efforts are required to satisfy authorities, including the completion of mounds of paperwork to absolute perfection. Top all these potential threats off with unpredictable and often severe weather, language barriers and pirates (yes, pirates), and you might see the logistics of Tara Pacific as near impossible… Or you might see it as an extraordinary mission calling for extraordinary measures.
Past experience serving Tara Oceans from 2009 through 2013 taught us not to expect anything — in other words, anything can happen.
Meet Rainer Friedrich, project manager for World Courier (Deutschland) and logistics manager on the Tara Pacific project.
“Whenever you coordinate an expedition like this, you can figure out a plan A, but you always have to figure out a plan B or a plan C,” says Friedrich. “The original foundation of the logistics is ideal, but I’ve learned you can’t be sure of anything.” His biggest concern with Tara Pacific at present: Making sure the export/import permits are in place for every city and managing against temperature excursions in remote areas with high heat like American Samoa. “You have to plan out a tight schedule,” says Friedrich. “What date and time will we arrive in Samoa? What date and time will World Courier’s New York office need to send the dry ice? How quickly can we import? All these little details must be approached with great care — and everything has to come together very quickly.”