Zeus faber and Gadus morhua extravaganzaDecember 6, 2022
Research Fund 19/03 :: Issah SeiduDecember 11, 2022
Let´s talk about our first post-Brexit truck move(s) from the UK in this article.
“They said” it couldn’t be done, but we just returned from a double road-and-sea transport from the UK to France and Spain, and by “double” we mean our container crossed the English Channel packed with critters twice, which also means it had to cross the channel back empty, with nothing but the tanks and equipment.
That basically means four border controls on each side, which translates to 2 export controls in France (Rouen), 2 import controls in the UK (Portsmouth), 2 export controls in the UK, and 2 import controls in France.
All of this involving invoices from the origin to the end clients, Health Certificates, and… CITES docs!
These customs and veterinarian checks lasted up to 3 hours each but, on our last one, we had things so nicely oiled that we cleared the importation check in France in under one hour.
Anyway, here’s a nice breakdown below of our journey:
- Early in 2022 we were contacted by our friends from Bristol Zoo, which had just closed and all animals needed to be relocated. We presented a budget, which was accepted, and a plan was made to do this late in the year.
- Meanwhile, we became aware that a “Certificate on Welfare of Animals during Transport” was going to be required, so we made arrangements to get that simultaneously as well.
- Fast forward almost a full year, mostly due to a few delays related to CITES paperwork, which is not easy when dealing with animals that arrived to an institution nearly 5 decades before, which was the case with “Mr. Paddle”, a 47 years old Paddlefish, Polyodon spathula!…
- …and we finally get to Wednesday, Nov. 16 – the container left our DKM partner in Coimbra, who is working with us on building the finest Fish Transport Unit of the Planet inside this 40 ft. shipping container, under our “Mobile Station” project, powered by the EEA Grants! Once in Peniche (on that same day), the boys got busy loading our tanks, oxygen cylinders, filtration units, and all sorts of support equipment. Needless to say that half of João’s students pitched in to help and enjoyed extra cheese on their pizza that night!
- Thursday, Nov. 24 – fully ready to rock & roll, the container is loaded onto a trailer and our favorite TPO driver, Filipe Pacheco, started his 1.760 km drive north to Ouistreham, right next to Caen.
- Friday, Nov. 25 – Zé Pedro and João Reis hop on the Audi A4 (about to make 800.000 km!) and start the same drive.
- Saturday, Nov. 26 – Zé, Reis and Filipe rendez-vous in Ouistreham and enjoy the first (of many) gin & tonics, to gather courage for the first crossing to the UK, scheduled for 16h30 the day after.
- Sunday, Nov. 27 – after a few struggles with French export Customs, which seems to be the norm each time we present a Carnet ATA for our equipment, the boys boarded the “Mont St. Michel” ferry from Brittany Ferries and started their 7 hours crossing to Portsmouth, enjoying a second gin & tonic on board. (For some reason, you’ll see that phrase a lot, during this tale… 😉
- Around 23h00, both truck and Audi cleared customs, again enjoying some fun with UK’s Border Force, and drove the 200 km to Bristol Zoo. Arriving around 01h30 AM, theboys checked in at the wonderful Mollie’s Motel & Diner and enjoyed some sleep, preparing for the full week ahead.
- Monday, Nov. 28 – At 14h00, an agent from NSF came to inspect the container, which is something we had arranged months ahead. The plan was to have the container inspected a few days before the transport, to ensure that there would be enough time to make any changes or adaptations, of which there were none, because we aced the inspection with flying colors!
- Meanwhile, our friends from JCS Livestock (whom we hired to handle all the import/export paperwork) warned us that the French Customs Authorities were not happy about handling CITES paperwork on the weekend (despite the fact that they had agreed to do so before…), so our carefully orchestrated plan had to be pushed one day earlier, to ensure that the first crossing docked on Friday, and not on Saturday, as originally planned. João, in Lisbon, scrambled to get assistance from Brittany Ferries, who showed amazing cooperation and changed 4 x Audi and 4 x truck crossings in a matter of minutes!
- Tuesday, Nov. 29 – The day is spent moving all the fish at Bristol Zoo from their exhibits to a smaller quarantine tank. This was a massive operation, involving the whole staff, and our boys in fact became honorary Bristol Zoo staff members. Check out their cool green polo shirts!
- Many special thanks to our friend Jonny Rudd, who drove down from Sea Life Birmingham, to lend the team a helping hand, since he had dealt with these extremely delicate Paddlefish, Arowanas (Scleropages formosus), and Alligator Gars (Atractosteus spatula) many years before, while they were under his care.
- Wednesday, Nov. 30 – In Peniche, João drove early to ESTM, and was member of the Jury on two Master’s thesis, which was followed by lunch with the rest of the Jury members, a few hours of classes, (legal…) speedy driving home, for 45 minutes of playtime with baby Nikola, and then catching the 22h00 Wizzair flight to Luton, while grading tests with a gin & tonic (see?…).
- Meanwhile, in the UK, Zé, Reis and Filipe drive to Skegness Aquarium and meet up with Stephanie Donohue, so they can load “Nudge”, a rather large Zebra shark, Stegostoma fasciatum, that was outgrowing his tank and was kindly accepted by Eduardo Da Forno, from Cinéaqua – Aquarium de Paris, also hoping that Nudge makes the Parisien lady Zebra sharks happy (“Nudge! Nudge! Wink! Wink!”), which ultimately means less sharks collected from the wild. The operation is incredibly successful and the truck drives back to Bristol with Reis, after dinner, while Zé detours to pick up João from Luton airport around 1h00 AM.
- The whole team meets near the truck, in Bristol, around 4h00 AM, and sleep at Mollie’s for a couple of hours. The clerk at the registration desk kindly provides João with some bedding, saving him £164 for a room where he’d stay for just 4 hours. João makes a wonderful bed on the floor and the whole team crashed until the day breaks.
- Thursday, Dec. 1 – After a quick check on Nudge and the filtration systems, the Portuguese team enjoys a wonderful Hungarian-English-style breakfast at Budapest Café, and plans are made to start loading at 11h00 AM. The goal is to leave to Portsmouth by 15h00.
- Once water is loaded, it is time to start loading the fish, of whish there are plenty:
- 4 large Scleropages formosus (Arowana)
- 4 Pterygoplichthys sp. (Sailfin plec)
- 2 huge Oxydoras niger (Ripsaw Catfish)
- 1 Pimelodus albofasciatus (White Stripe – Antenna Catfish)
- 3 Leporinus fasciatus (Banded Leporinus)
- 1 Sorubim lima (Duckbill catfish)
- 6 Lepisosteus oculatus (Spotted gar)
- 2 Lepisosteus osseus (Longnose gar)
- A little before 15h00, the team heads out to Portsmouth, 200 km away. Meanwhile, João had called Brittany Ferries and registered himself as a truck driver, so that he can accompany Filipe (the actual driver 😉 on all admin procedures, which would have been a bit too daunting to poor Filipe! Zé and Reis are joined by the awesome Tamara Canalejas, an aquarist from Bristol Zoo who tagged along for the whole ride.
- It was around 18h00 when the truck and Audi had to split, since the freight and passenger areas aren’t allowed to mix. João embarks on the admin part of the job, first with Border Force and then with Brittany Ferries. The process lasts for about two hours and the Brittany Ferries staff is quite intrigued by the “Shark” in the cargo manifest, so João invites them to come take a look on the truck. This proved quite helpful, and all the paperwork is cleared in a matter of minutes.
- Slight problem, though… João and Filipe realize they have no food, although the Audi is packed to the ceiling with yummy treats that the boys and Tamara bought earlier. João therefore places himself strategically near the lane where the passenger cars enter the Port to board the ferry, makes a new friend amongst the Brittany Ferries staff and successfully diverts the Audi to a corner, so he may ransack the team’s supplies! Scheduled to board at 22h45 on the “Normandie” to Ouistreham, there’s not much to do but to enjoy a (cold) beer with wonderful cookies and dried nuts, and give the animals and systems another quick check, before boarding the ferry.
- Boarding occurs a bit late, near midnight, but that doesn’t stop the team from enjoying a gin & tonic in the “Normandie’s” bar!
- The Brittany crew then agrees to escort the biologist’s to the cargo hold at 3h00 AM, so they may give the animals and systems a check, and everybody enjoys a few hours of sleep, lulled by the gentle waves.
- Friday, Dec. 2 – The morning after arrives far too early, and there’s no time for breakfast before the crew is banging on the cabin doors, cordially inviting all passengers to get off the boat. Zé, Reis and Tamara head to the Audi, while João and Filipe head towards the truck and then drive to the border control at SIVEP.
- At around 07h00 AM the truck is parked at SIVEP, shortly joined by the Audi. The paperwork processing begins and last until 10h00 AM, at which point we head to Biotropica, 140 km and nearly two hours away, where François-Pierre Huyghe is waiting, along with Eduardo from Cinéaqua, who will move Nudge to Paris.
- We started by loading Nudge onto Eduardo’s tank, which we had shipped from Peniche to Paris a few days before. Then it was time to move all the freshwater critters and place them in François’ team’s able hands.
- Done around 16h00, it was time to head to the Ibis Styles in Caen and chill for a couple of hours, before dinner and more gin & tonics!
- Saturday, Dec. 3 – Lazy morning and early afternoon, with not much to do but to catch up on emails, grade some tests and rest. Thankfully the good people from Ibis agree to a late check-out for a small fee (15 € per room), and the team enjoys a wonderful rest until 16h00, at which point it’s time to drive back to Ouistreham Port and board the 23h00 ferry back to Portsmouth.
- Customs export procedures don’t last more than one hour and the team reunites in the bar of the ship, minutes before enjoying a full night’s sleep, with a truck empty of animals below.
- Sunday, Dec. 4 – The ferry docks at 06h45 AM, as planned, and Customs import procedures are cleared in 20 minutes! The team arrives to Bristol Zoo around 10h30 AM and therefore has plenty of time to load the 3 Paddlefish and 3 Alligator Gars. The plan is to leave by 15h00, exactly like the Thursday before, so there’s time to enjoy a wonderful cup of coffee and calmly plan all activities. This includes rehearsing a few dry moves of the Paddlefish, which are notoriously fragile and we wanted to ensure that there would be absolutely no injuries to these iconic animals, especially “Mr. Paddle”, who was 47 years old at the time!
- As planned, the truck left shortly before 15h00 and arrived to Portmouth around 18h00. Customs export procedures take a little less than two hours and the team board the “Normandie” and departs at 22h45, as planned. The third and last gin & tonic is enjoyed before bed and a quick check of the animals in the middle of the night.
- Monday, Dec. 5 – It was 07h30 AM when the truck pulled up to SIVEP and aced the veterinary inspection once again. The veterinarian team was particularly impressed with the labeling of the tanks, and how neatly organized all documents were, and all credit goes to Laura Graham, from Bristol Zoo, who did a brilliant job compiling piles and piles of paperwork into beautifully organized folders!
- The Carnet ATA received its 8th stamp in less than one hour and the team was pulling up at Biotropica’s gate to deliver the 3 huge Alligator Gars at 09h30!
- Although João has been inside transport tanks with countless big Sandtiger and Sandbar sharks (Carcharias taurus and Carcharhinus plumbeus) many times before, he was the first to admit that the huge teeth in these Alligator Gars were making him quite nervous, but everything went as smoothly as it possibly could.
- At 11h00 AM all three Alligator Gars were safely delivered to François and the team embarks on its 1460 km stretch to deliver the 3 Paddlefish to L’Ocenaogràfic de València. E.T.A. is 10h00 AM on Tuesday, 23 hours away.
- Meanwhile, the Audi crew looks carefully at the dashboard because, a little before Bordeaux, the 2002 A4 Avant clocks 800.000 km, the majority of which behind trucks carrying fish!
- The team stops a few moments after, not only to celebrate but also to check on water quality. Sadly the keys are left inside the Audi, but a bit of resourcefulness, and a piece of wire borrowed from the French Service Station’s fence, solve the problem. The Audi then aims for Bordeaux airport, where two fresh drivers are waiting, while the truck powers to the French-Spanish border, which is reached around midnight.
- Tuesday, Dec. 6 – After 22 hours, the truck pulls up to L’Oceanogràfic, at 09h00 AM, where Mario Roche’s team eagerly awaits for the three gorgeous Paddlefish, which are offloaded safely into their new home.
- The second of two transports, the first of which began the Thursday before, thus ends on Tuesday morning, five days – and a very exhausted team – after, with no losses and huge smiles on everyone’s face. Not much else to do but disconnecting the cables of Flying Sharks’ filtration unit from TPO’s trucks’ batteries, and finally driving the 900 km to Lisbon, where everyone arrived safely in time for dinner with their families.