World Courier has supported Tara’s mission around the world, proudly serving as the legendary research schooner’s official logistics partner for the past 5 years. World Courier assisted Tara across in the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. For her 2016-2018 voyage, World Courier joins Tara across Asia Pacific to examine the biodiversity of coral reefs and their evolution in response to climate change and anthropic disturbances.

World Courier has been entrusted with the critical role of transporting 40,000 coral reef samples from the schooner to the 26 institutions and collaborating research laboratories worldwide – a remarkable mission with zero room for error.

The man behind the shipments is Rainer Friedrich, Project Manager for World Courier Deutschland and Logistics Manager on the Tara Pacific expedition.

Rainer on the back row left with the Tara crew

His job is to coordinate the complete logistics of the sample shipments. This includes planning and communications with all parties involved, and ensuring meticulous completion of all necessary paperwork and packaging of the samples on board. His past experience serving Tara Oceans from 2009 through 2013 has taught him not to expect anything — in other words, that anything can happen.

Here he tells us about his experiences finalising the paperwork and packing up the latest shipments from Papeete on the 3rd November 2016.

“After arriving in Papeete I went in the morning to our agent’s office to say hello after my last visit six years ago during the TARA OCEANS Expedition. I have to say it was a warm welcome and I felt a little bit like being back home again.

We discussed the update on the paperwork, which could be finalised only after the sample packing, then I met TARA’ s dock agent to get my security card to be able to enter the pier and dock after.

After that I went to the city pier and on my arrival I saw TARA at the opposite site docked. In the same minute I saw that the zodiac of TARA was on the water and driving in my direction. As usual there was a big hello and I went on board TARA.  We arranged that two of the scientists would leave in the morning of the 3rd with the ferry from Moorea to Papeete, carrying all the corals samples, protected by frozen ice.

Unfortunately there was not yet a CITES export permit. (CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as the Washington Convention) is a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals. Corals are all covered by the treaty and special permits are required for shipping.)

I felt unsecure about getting the samples exported as scheduled. The permit needed to be in my hands on my arrival on Papeete which was not the case. I left TARA to go back to the hotel to get a WLAN connection to chat with Clementine and Romain Trouble from TARA Foundation. I was told that unfortunately the French Authorities had not sent the samples data to the Haute Chamber de Commerce yet, so went there directly to meet Mr. Maui Hunter, Secretary in charge to get an update. At 15.00 I was cordially received and was told the buck stopped with “the French authorities.”

I told him that I would do all in my power to get the data sent on the 3rd November to him if he would be able to issue the CITES permit on the spot. Maui Hunter was so kind and he offered to arrive two hours early at his office to see if the data had been received so he would be able to complete and get the permit authorized. I went back again to the hotel to have another chat with Romain telling him to act accordingly and put pressure to the French authorities otherwise we would not be able to send any samples. Later on  I received a call from Romain, telling me that authorities promised to act immediately, this delay had occurred due to an internal misunderstanding and they were working to get the data sent immediately.

Packing Day

As previously arranged the logistical stone got rolling at 07:00

I went to the agent office to see if everything was in place. The truck was already loaded with my packing material. It left on time to get the pre ordered dry ice (250Kg) before it reached the pier at downtown Papeete. We arrived at around 09:00 at the pier beside TARA. We unloaded then went to the departure and arrival dock, where the Moorea Ferries arrive, to meet Sarah from the ship with all the coral samples. She arrived on time and we loaded the seven boxes that she had carried on the truck and left to go back to TARA. After a shot of coffee we started action. As usual I started with all the ambient samples, then the frozen, and the last ones are always the refrigerated samples.

It's all hands on deck to get the samples packed up at the correct temperature ready for shipping

At about 11:00 I received a call on my cell phone from Maui that the CITES export permit would be ready at 14:00. This really made my day, because we took the risk to pack all samples as calculated even with the risk that no permit was in place. No permit no export!

But as I always say “think positive, courage is rewarded”…

At 13:30 I left TARA to meet Maui, to receive the permit. Of course I was more then thankful for his great support, which I told him at least three times!

With a smile on my face I left the “Haute Chamber de Commerce” back on TARA to manage the final packing of all liquid nitrogen (LN²) samples. We had to retrieve these out of the LN² tank which is always quite tricky and like a child getting a few coins from the slit of a piggy bank. We had to get out 800 small vials, which took almost 1 hour. At around 17:00 all was set and finally packed.

Everything packed up ready for the airport

We left TARA around 17:30 to go to the agent warehouse and drop all the Thermo-Containers, then we marked them up with all the appropriate labels. Next step was the completion of the paperwork which had to be amended for the number of boxes. The invoices for the corals had to be amended showing the new permit number as well the accurate number of samples, which is mandatory for the proper import procedure and clearance.By 19.30 all was set for the delivery next morning to ATN (Air Tahiti Nui) at Faa’a airport.

With successful departure of the shipment I took the flight back home, mission completed.”

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. The original foundation of the logistics is ideal, but I’ve learned you can’t be sure of anything.”