Business / Reading time: ~ 2 Min.

Off to Lebanon! Transporting Medicine from Germany to Asia

What are you to do if a customer requests a refrigerated transport of medical supplies to Lebanon shortly before the Christmas holidays? There was no moment of hesitation for Jörn Bez and his team from DHL Freight Maintal: We deliver! Not only were the goods special in this case, but so was the great distance and the arduous journey to the destination in Lebanon.

Jörn Bez, Manager Forwarding DHL Freight, and his team at the Maintal freight terminal are already in the mood for Christmas when in the late afternoon of December 21, a customer from the Rhine-Main region approaches them with a transport order.

What is requested? A cooling trailer with BiThermo equipment and ADR (dangerous goods) conformity for the transport of medical items.

Where to deliver? Beirut, Lebanon

Time of goods acceptance: December 29, 2021

Anticipatory Route Planning for Safe Transportation of the Sensitive and Vital Goods

“Right from the start of planning, it has been clear that the mere overland route is out of the question. Traveling through war-torn Syria with high-value medical supplies is currently ill advised,” explains Bez. The ferry connection from Mersin on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast to Beirut is also a poor choice, as the Lebanese capital’s port is still under reconstruction after the explosion in the summer of 2020.

The solution is: by ferry from Mersin to Tripoli and from the Lebanese port city just about 100 kilometers along the coastal road south to Beirut. Protecting the cargo is always a top priority for DHL Freight. However, when people’s health is at stake, as in the case of medical goods, it requires even more care.

The planned journey from the Rhine-Main area to Beirut.

Depending on the nature and purpose of the shipment, a decision is required on the most suitable means of transport. Aircraft are ideal for fast transports with small quantities of goods, large quantities are well transported by ship, but that again takes a long time. Rail and road freight allow for the greatest possible flexibility. In this case, however, we were limited in our options: The direct route would lead through crisis areas and endanger the transport. All decision criteria had to be secondary to safety in this scenario.

Refrigerated Transport: What a Forwarder Must Consider in Carrying Medical Supplies

In addition to the safety of the route, the most important thing in medical transportation is the cooling of the products along the entire distance. To maintain the cold chain, we used a cooling trailer with BiThermo and in compliance with ADR regulations, which specify the safe handling of dangerous goods.

3,300 Kilometers Across Europe

Once all the necessary approvals have been obtained from Risk and Security, the freight forwarder is commissioned. Right on time before New Year’s Eve, the truck sets off from the Rhine-Main area on its way to the southeast. After nearly 3,300 kilometers across Eastern Europe and Turkey, the first leg is completed on January 5.

At the Port of Tripoli. Old vs. new: We used state-of-the-art equipment to transport the medical supplies (picture on the right)

On January 9, after a four-day wait, the precious cargo sets off across the Mediterranean to Tripoli. But the Lebanese port presents the next challenge: “We expected it to take a few days at customs, since Lebanon is not your average third country,” recounts Bez. Due to a strike in the port of Tripoli on account of a fuel and electricity shortage, and because it is mandatory to inspect the goods in transit, customs clearance finally takes a full eight days. “I'm sure it would have taken even longer without the spirited help of the consignee,” Bez adds.

From Tripoli to Beirut

Finally, on January 19, the medical supplies start their last leg of the journey. Via Byblos and Jounieh, they travel along the coastal road to Beirut. At this point, the truck has covered almost 3,900 kilometers over land and sea. The freight in the cooling trailer has been kept at a constant temperature of +5 °C throughout the 22 days of transport.

About the DHL Freight Maintal Terminal
On a transshipment area of 10,000 m² and an additional 5,000 m² for the automotive industry, 170 employees handle 2,500 shipments daily for our national and international customers. On November 1, 2022, the team will move from Maintal to the new DHL Freight site in Erlensee, which will be equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and a hazardous materials warehouse.

Unloading with a Difference

The unloading is just as adventurous as the entire transportation. In the middle of the street in the bustling traffic of Beirut, forklifts unload the vehicle pallet by pallet. Everything is well cooled and has now arrived safely.

Conclusion: From the Rhine-Main Area to Beirut in 22 Days

Not only the timing, in the midst of the turn of the year, was special for this transport. The route to the destination was full of obstacles, be it devastated areas or persistent strikes. On top, the goods being transported were particularly sensitive and needed to be cooled constantly. Many challenges at once, which DHL Freight and Jörn Bez’s team were able to overcome perfectly with all their experience.

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