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Shipments to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

James A. Blake jablake at ix.netcom.com
Fri Nov 30 16:41:26 EST 2001

Hello friends,

As a follow up to Joao's note and Linda's extensive report on the situation 
at the Smithsonian and the shipping and receiving of specimens 
preserved in wet fluids, I think this might be an appropriate time to share 
some information.  The following was in effect BEFORE September 11.  

In our laboratory, we have been facing increasingly strict shipping 
requirements by couriers such as UPS and FED EX.  I believe this came 
about after the ValueJet crash in the Everglades that was caused by 
illegally shipped flammable items.  

All fluids that we typically use for preserving benthic samples such as 
formalin and alcohol must be identified as hazardous.  For certain 
shipments we are required to use special UN approved heavy weight 
cartons within which the jars are packed in vermiculate.  Such items are 
banned from passenger aircraft and we are required to atttach labels 
saying things like "Cargo Aircraft only". Some carriers will ban such 
items from trucks, but will allow transport in cargo aircraft.  

We have typically used heavy coolers for samples, but these are not 
considered as "approved" and we can no longer use them.  

In shipping Antarctic samples from South America last year, I elected to 
ship in 5% formalin instead of transferring to alcohol to avoid any issues 
with couriers and air cargo.  

Regulations vary from place to place and from courier to courier, so it is 
essential that you obtain the correct information from them before 
attempting to ship samples.  Do not attempt to ship via FED EX until you 
have consulted with their hazardous shipping policies.  Dry ice is also a 
problem, and samples containing this need to specially handled.   Failure 
to correctly label or identify samples, can result in fines of many 
thousands of dollars and other penalties.  It will take a little effort to obtain 
the information, but the end result will be correctly shipped and labeled 
samples that will get to their intended destination.  

Jim Blake

James A. Blake, Ph.D.
ENSR Marine & Coastal Center
89 Water Street
Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543
Tel: (508) 457-7900
FAX: (508) 457-7595
jablake at ix.netcom.com

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