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.
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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