What's the cost to transport my eyes? And other strange shipping stories

I have to admit that one show I like to watch on TV at night is Shipping Wars on A&E. The premise of the show is for a group of “competitors” to bid on unusual shipments available on the load board uShip and then transport those items to their destinations.

I think my favorite part is watching “The Rookie” Jarrett bid on items only to then try to figure out how to get said item to its destination in his odd shipping vehicle – a small bus. Of course, there are others on the show that struggle to make these unusual shipments work.

At the core of the show, though, is the “unusual shipments” the competitors must transport. Anyone that follows the trucking industry knows that unusual shipments can and do make their way across this country and the world on a daily basis. How do you think some of this stuff ends up where it does?

Well, global package delivery company DHL Express recently sent out a press release talking about some of the strange, yet critical and time-sensitive deliveries the company made in 2013.

Among those deliveries was the transportation of 9 gorillas across two continents.

“One unique shipment to mention is a [70 lb.] consignment of Haggis which was moved from the UK to Tanzania for an event. The Scottish delicacy was swiftly transported through customs and delivered in time for the prestigious event,” says Sumesh Rahavendra, head of marketing for DHL Express Sup-Saharan Africa (SSA).

For those uninitiated in the Scottish delicacy, such as myself, Wikipedia says that Haggis is a savory pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach and simmered for approximately three hours. Although, most modern commercial haggis is prepared in a sausage casing rather than an actual stomach, the site adds.

In Kenya, Rahavendra notes, the transport of live human eyes is quite common – and those shipments come with very tight delivery windows.

“Understandably, the corneas have an extremely short life span and are therefore highly perishable, which poses a significant challenge to us,” he says. “What adds to the complexity is the fact that the recipient is booked and prepped for surgery while the cornea is in transit. The successes of these deliveries rely on prior customs releases, dedicated delivery vehicles and a passionate team of certified international specialists on the ground. When there is no margin for error and the result could affect another person’s opportunity for sight, every stop is pulled out from pick-up to delivery.”

Lest we think that all unusual shipments are of the odd variety, sometimes, the reason for the shipment itself is the unusual part. One man, DHL relates, had his laundry shipped from the UK to a Southern Africa country for dry cleaning.

Weddings also provide another avenue for shipments – usually gifts. But, when you can’t find the exact flowers you want locally, sometimes you have to look elsewhere.

“In light of this, 1.7 tons of fresh flowers were sent from Johannesburg to Douala in Cameroon for such an occasion,” says Rahavendra. “This personal request came from a customer whose two sons were getting married on the same day. Fast forward a few short hours, and a splendor of color was delivered to the event in time for the all important nuptials.”

Even butterflies – or more specifically, butterfly larvae – can find their way onto a delivery truck.

Again in Kenya, one customer wanted his butterfly larvae shipped.

“Any delay in the transport process would result in the premature hatching of the butterflies, from which they would not have survived,” Rahavendra says. The shipment process followed a similar operational process as the transport of the corneas to its successful completion.

So, as you can see, unusual shipments can add a little levity to the daily routine for companies. If you have any unusual shipments you have hauled, leave a comment, I’m sure there are plenty of people who would love to hear the stories. Let’s see who has hauled the most unusual item.

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