IFLN News 2022

Tibbett+Britten Unique and Falcon International Move Snow Samples all the way from Canada to Switzerland

The IFLN Network is excited to share the great work two of our members have been doing together. Two IFLN forwarders – Quebec, Canada-headquartered Falcon International and Zurich, Switzerland-based tibbett+britten unique – have collaborated on the very special shipment of a number of snow samples moved all the way from the Canadian Arctic North to Davos in Switzerland.

The shipment – not without many challenges – was successfully completed on Labour Day, 1 May, thanks to close and fruitful collaboration between the two partners. This collaboration is even more proof of how well our members interact with each other to execute and complete jobs around the world.

Olivier Millet, director sales + marketing at tibbett+britten unique, recalls the background to the job. “We had been approached by Northumbria University in Newcastle, in the UK, more than two years ago, when it planned an Arctic expedition to Inuvik, in the Northwest Territories, part of the very north of Canada. The university planned to ship snow samples that its team would collect to the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, an interdisciplinary research and service centre in Davos, Switzerland, where they would be used for research purposes.”

However, Millet continued: “Then – as we all remember very well – Covid-19 suddenly appeared, and the expedition was cancelled. But, two months, ago the university (specifically, its Cold and Palaeoenvironments Research Group, or CAPE) unexpectedly approached us again. It planned to launch the expedition again, although this time at another location – at Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island, Nunavut, home to the Canadian High Arctic Research Station.”

"So," says Millet, “We contacted our old friends at Falcon International in Montreal, who we were sure would be the right partner for such a delicate shipment of frozen snow samples.”

The first of the challenges encountered quickly became clear, says Millet. “As the local airline, Canadian North, did not want to take responsibility for shipping the samples from Cambridge Bay, we needed to find a way to get them on the first leg of their journey to Switzerland." Millet goes into more detail, about the quick wit and dedication both companies used in securing this shipment, and making sure the freight arrived to its final destination securely and in a timely manner, once again proving the strength and dedication our members have in completing jobs for their clients.

Then emerged a second issue: “As Air Canada could not deliver the necessary Envirotainer – a specialised insulated container for ensuring the temperature integrity of its contents – for the samples’ journey by air from Edmonton to Zurich Airport we had to find another way to ship them out of Canada.”

Flexibility of decision-making
A new plan was needed, and tibbett+britten unique’s partner on the project, Falcon International, came up with it. Vidhi Pitroda, lead, corporate compliance at Falcon, takes up the story. “On 20 April, in preparation for the shipment, we had placed an order for dry ice with a specialist supplier as well as another order with Air Canada Cargo’s Toronto office for the use of one of its leased RKN t2 Envirotainer containers; for the latter, this was a week in advance of the scheduled date of shipment, much more than the minimum requirement of three days.”

As was alluded to above, Air Canada had suspended its Envirotainer container service at Edmonton Airport due to the fact that Covid-19 had significantly impacted widebody flights out of the gateway, and the nearest service point became Calgary Airport. Thus, the container was instead set to be in place at Calgary Airport on 27 April, creating the need to have the snow samples moved to Calgary before the Envirotainer – with the snow samples safely inside – would then be moved to Toronto, from where the flight to Zurich would depart. This pitfall would help to put our member's in the spotlight, as they collaborated together to over come this and future obstacles that would've drastically inhibited the completion of the project.

Meanwhile, as Pitroda relates: “On the morning of 27 April, we received photographs of the samples from the shipper, a requirement before they could fly, but then Canadian North asked for all the dry ice to be removed from the boxes containing the samples (because the aircraft involved was to be a combi), so they had to fly without dry ice from Cambridge Bay Airport. The aircraft and samples touched down at Edmonton on 27 April as per our initial plan, and we then moved the snow samples by road on a reefer truck – now with dry ice to maintain the required temperature – straight after the valuable cargo had landed at Edmonton Airport.”

The samples were trucked to Calgary and placed in Falcon’s warehouse there, along with 230kg of dry ice, to keep the temperature of the samples at near -20°C overnight. At the same time, the Envirotainer container was in transit from the Air Canada facility at Toronto for next-day arrival at Calgary airport. On the afternoon of 28 April, Falcon’s Calgary warehouse took delivery of the Envirotainer RKN t2 container, which was moved across from Air Canada’s Calgary warehouse. The snow samples were transferred to the Envirotainer container, along with that 230kg of dry ice to maintain the all-important temperature of -20°C. Falcon International used its extensive network to house the temperature sensitive cargo, until it was time to move them from storage to their final destination.

After the container was loaded and sealed, it was delivered back to Air Canada at Calgary, accompanied by electronic air waybill (e-AWB) documents for departure on 29 April. The Envirotainer plus its delicate contents arrived at Toronto Airport as scheduled later that day.

With the help of the IFLN partner, Air Canada, a Toronto-based operations team monitored the shipment’s temperature and the battery level of the Envirotainer. In fact, based on the power readings it received, the Air Canada team was able to make quick decisions on the safety of the safety of the cargo, and decided to replace the batteries at Toronto Airport right before loading onto an aircraft for a next-day departure (30 April) for the flight to Zurich. Even with the delay caused by Air Canada choosing to replace the batteries to ensure the cargo's safety, touchdown in Switzerland was just one hour later than scheduled.

tibbett+britten’s Millet takes up the story once again. “The shipment landed at Zurich Airport on 1 May, an official holiday in Switzerland. It was thanks to great co-operation with Air Canada’s handling agent and the Swiss Customs authorities, who gave us special permission to pick up the goods on the holiday, that we were able to collect the snow samples within 90 minutes of the aircraft touching down.

“Then, a friend of mine who owns a freezer sprinter van, drove the consignment directly to Davos, where he handed over the snow samples to the appropriate researcher at the Swiss Snow and Avalanche Research centre personally.

“The latter also helped us a lot with his flexibility to leave his Sunday roast to open the doors at the research site and to stored the samples in the facility’s freezer storage room!”

Positive feedback has already been received from Northumbria University, which confirmed that the snow samples had travelled throughout their transcontinental journey at a constant -20°C (as recorded by the temperature loggers in each box), and that they looked in perfect condition during an initial inspection.

Says Millet: “The customer is very happy with our performance and has already confirmed that they will come back to us with other projects!

“Thanks again to our friends at Falcon International for their support in this thrilling and perfectly successful adventure,” he adds.

Planning and preparation
The whole process involved more than a month’s careful planning, says Patrick Legault, Falcon International’s president. And as can be seen from the challenges thrown up during the critical few days of shipping, flexibility and adaptability were also vital to overcome obstacles that arose.

“I’d like to thank Olivier and our mutual client for their trust. I’d like to also mention how proud I am that together we managed such a critical shipment with success,” Legault concludes.

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