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For the 2019 solar eclipse in Argentina, DB Schenker provided one of the world’s largest hot air balloon manufacturers with the support it needed to get its balloons to Argentina on time and in perfect condition.
Every two years or so, the sun, moon and Earth line up in perfect harmony when the shadow of the moon sweeps across the world, and depending on when and where you are, gets between the Earth and the sun casting a shadow over the earth blotting out the sun’s disk. While lasting only a few minutes, the experience is remembered for a lifetime. What better way to view a solar eclipse than from a hot air balloon?
As the world’s leading manufacturer of hot air balloons, Ultramagic sells balloons that range from those that can accommodate a single person all the way up to 30-person aircraft. To get the absolute best view of the 2019 solar eclipse in July, the company sent balloons from Barcelona, Spain to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Once in Argentina, the gigantic balloons were transported to San Luis, where they took part in the Argentina Balloon Eclipse Experience. The transportation and logistics involved with the point-to-point trip were complex and involved several different providers.
One of those providers was DB Schenker, which managed the ocean transportation and logistics processes for the cargo as it traveled from Barcelona to Buenos Aires (and back). Working with DB Schenker in different capacities worldwide, Ultramagic was reconnected with the logistics provider through its freight consignee.
“The operation was very demanding logistics-wise, particularly when importing temporary goods which is what we were doing with our hot air balloons (i.e., goods that aren’t staying in the country),” says Josep Lladó, Founder, Ultramagic. “But we knew it would be a great place to view the solar eclipse from the air, so we went for it.”
Four Decades of Hot Air Ballooning
Lladó and his partners started flying balloons in 1978 with a used balloon. They then designed and built their own balloon for an expedition to Africa in 1980. The trip spanned 11 months and involved 40 different flights.
The rest, as they say, is history. The trio started designing and building an Ultralight aircraft and created Ultramagic S.A. Due to high demand for its balloons, the company soon transitioned over to a company dedicated to creating some of the world’s most beautiful balloons.
With thousands of balloons now flying and operating worldwide, Ultramagic makes somewhere between 80 and 100 balloons annually. About 80% of them are exported to Japan, North America, South America, Europe, and of course where it all began – Africa. Today, the company has a purpose-built factory, and a worldwide network of dealers.
Close-Up Views of the Solar Eclipse
For Ultramagic’s solar eclipse expedition, key requirements included a timely arrival of its balloons, which had to be onsite and prepared for the air within a certain timeframe. The shipment also had to arrive in perfect, working order.
“Being a part of this project was an honor for Schenker Argentina. The amount of coordination needed amongst all parties to finalize the shipment was a challenge we welcomed and we thank Ultramagic for their confidence in our team” says Sebastian Armani, the head of the Mendoza branch. “We packed the balloons, organized the ocean shipping, ensured that everything got on the vessel on time, and managed the documentation requirements,” says Victoria Guevara, a customer service specialist at DB Schenker Argentina.
“It was a complicated project,” she continues, “but our goal is to always do everything possible to ensure that our clients get their cargo in perfect condition and on time.”
In Argentina, DB Schenker had everything (i.e., documentation, entry of manifest, etc.) prepared in advance to ensure that there were no delays in shipping the containers from the port terminal. “Timing was our biggest challenge because we could not have a single delay and risk Ultramagic missing the solar eclipse,” says Guevara.
Tracking the Cargo
DB Schenker also secured a competitive freight rate for Ultramagic’s cargo and arranged for a “temporary importation” of the balloons in Argentina. The logistics provider tracked the cargo from the point of departure to the point of arrival, and then notified Ultramagic when the balloons arrived in Argentina (where it had the bill of lading and freight certifications prepared).
“We carried out the import process within the stipulated timeframes and did regular follow-up on the loads,” says Guevara, whose team was in regular contact with Lladó throughout the process. “He knew where his cargo was at all times, we had everything ready for when the ship arrived at the port terminal.”
Lladó says the arrangement worked out perfectly in a world where moving hot air balloons around the world presents unique challenges. With three world champion hot air balloon pilots on its team, Ultramagic plans to do more trips in 2022 (and beyond), with its shortlist of destinations including Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, and Victoria Falls. “This was the first time we did a solar eclipse trip and it was a lot of fun,” says Lladó. “We’re hoping to have more experiences like that.”