Shippers are relentlessly challenged with minimizing and managing exceptions to avoid costly, untimely delays. But for some shippers, exceptions—even the living, breathing, largest-fish-in-the-world kind—are the norm.

When the Georgia Aquarium and UPS teamed up to move a pair of female whale sharks from a sea pen off the coast of Taipei, Taiwan, to the Atlanta aquarium in June 2006, they were challenged with executing a transportation itinerary few had undertaken before—from the blue ocean to the blue skies, to the newest and largest aquarium in the world.

For Alice and Trixie’s trip, the Georgia Aquarium relied on UPS to meet three primary objectives, says Hatcher: logistics planning; configuring the containers and securing the aircraft needed to transport the whale sharks; and customs clearance.

Aquarium staff met with UPS’ logistics employees and loadmasters to design a strategy. “First, UPS had to reengineer one of its B-747 freighters so customized holding tanks could lock into the aircraft for proper balance,” says Hatcher. “The transport required two tanks, each weighing 25 tons, including the water and the fish.”

The interior of the aircraft was also retrofitted to secure custom containers with marine life support systems and an onboard lab that enabled aquarium veterinarians to proactively monitor the status of the whale sharks and check water vitals during transit.

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