DHL Moves Man and Machine in Year-Long Race

Official logistics sponsor for 2011-2012 Volvo Ocean Race stands by 24/7 to deliver goods, services and support within extreme environments


In another case, team Sanya, which suffered hull and rudder damage as it left Auckland, New Zealand at the start of Leg 5 in late March, required DHL to charter a vessel, placing the team’s boat on board and collecting the team’s equipment for transport to Savannah, Ga., for repairs.

DHL also set up the delivery of necessary equipment to Chile where CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand stopped to do repairs and where DHL provided a crucial replacement part for PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG in Auckland.

DHL overcomes its challenges

Perhaps one of its most challenging tasks was during Legs 2 and 3 of the race, during which DHL helped the race bypass pirate-infested waters off the coast of Somalia by moving the sailing yachts on ocean tankers.

“That was a very, very challenging operation which had never been done before,” explained Reinier Vens, Project Director, DHL for the Volvo Ocean Race. “We had to lift all the race boats out of the open sea onboard the chartered ship using the crane on the cargo ship, and bring them to Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates—and from there bring them to Abu Dhabi. Everything needed to be planned. It involved many divisions of DHL as well—the industrial projects team, the chartering group—all of the whole DHL operations. And at the end of the day, everybody was happy the operation went well.”

A crucial task—both before the start of the race and throughout—also included scheduling of the 25 tons of materials, from small-to-large scale supplies such as food; clothing; first aid kits; desks; refrigerators; 105-foot tall masts and more.

“We had to schedule everything well in advance and plan everything with the shipping lines and verify that all documentation was correct,” said Vens. “We also had to ensure that health authorities were spoken to because of freeze-dried food onboard the teams’ ships. Importing food into a country is always a very complicated issue and something we needed to address well in advance.”

“The second issue in this race was going to destinations which are not like Miami, for example, which has a good logistics infrastructure,” he continued. “These racing vessels are also going to destinations like Itajaí in Brazil and Hainan in China. And we needed to ship the necessary containers to these destinations. We needed to schedule a whole operation because the timeframes were so tight and charter vessels needed to be booked.”

One island that lacked practically all infrastructure and required DHL to charter a vessel that could access its tiny port, was Tristan da Cunha, located in the South Atlantic Ocean. PUMA Ocean Racing by BERG, was one such team that was able to quickly get back into the race after such necessary charter vessel scheduling by DHL.

“We were pretty fortunate—our boat itself got around the world pretty unscathed,” said Ken Read, Chief Executive Officer, PUMA Ocean Racing and Skipper of PUMA’s Mar Mostro yacht. “But we did have some setbacks. One was when we broke our mast in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean—and that’s not the best situation. So we had to do several things. We had to figure out how to get without a mast or sails from the middle of the ocean to South Africa. Once we got there, we had to get our boat back into one piece in order to start leg 2 of the race. The boat and crew ended up in Tristan da Cunha which is the most remote, inhabited island in the world—no airport, nothing. I believe they get about six ships per year that bring supplies and goods to the island, which has 262 people total. And they took care of us for five days while our shore team managed to commandeer about a 350-foot ship to pick up our boat with the ship’s crane, get the boat on deck and take us to South Africa. Everything had to happen very fast and it was a challenge,” Read said.

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