As we export to many countries we often rely on shipping agents and carriers to transport equipment safely to customers’ studios, but, depending on the item and the distance, we also carry out deliveries ourselves. One particular shipment to Dublin proved to be a challenge for our team, making a special delivery just before Christmas.
A few years ago a large suction table was loaded for a journey from Chichester to an institution in Dublin. Although it was winter, the weather forecast appeared reasonable.
Passing through Oxfordshire lazy white flakes began to fall, but not to worry; heavy snow in the lowlands of England is a rarity. By the time the van was on board the ferry at the port of Birkenhead snow had formed into minor drifts. But not to worry; Ireland is not particularly noted for heavy snow in the lowlands… is it?
Unlike Scandinavia, Canada, Russia etc the infrastructure of the British Isles (with the exception of Scotland) is not really set up for regular and predictable heavy winter weather and few vehicles have winter tyres, so when it happens the effects are out of proportion with the cause.
Dublin, 05:30 A.M: Heavy, wind driven snow had obscured the road signs. As a result, the load went unintentionally the long way round, through Dublin Port Tunnel and in a great curve around the sleeping, blanketed city. At that hour there was almost no other traffic and the destination was reached with no further complication. All fine so far, so off for a very welcome coffee and to exchange a few pleasantries with the Garda (Police) on duty in the cold outside the nearby Government Buildings.
After three or four hours the unloading team was assembled ready to help handle the equipment. The van and table (carefully packaged and protected with a heavy tarpaulin) had become an unidentifiable white lump needing excavation with a broom and shovel. A Willard Technician had also arrived on an early flight from Southampton to install and commission the unit.
The institution’s excellent loading facilities and large lift made for good access, but several hours were still needed for a steady and safe installation on an upper floor. It was then time to leave, this was where things became more exciting.
Our technician took a taxi to the airport to catch his return flight. After clearing up and de-icing the van was also ready to go…straight into a dark and heavily gridlocked central Dublin. Snow continued to fall and the roads were now of polished ice, pedestrians struggled to stay on their feet and vehicles slid into the gutters (and each other!). A journey of twenty minutes to the ferry terminal became a painful crawl of three hours, during which, news then came that our technician in the taxi had battled through the snow to the airport only to find all flights cancelled, he was therefore stranded, but for one remote chance.
He was told that the van was still stuck in traffic and was yet to arrive at the ferry port, with quick thinking (and good fortune) He Managed to find another taxi prepared to take him back to the city centre, but not to the Ferry Terminal, some four miles away, which he completed with determination on foot and in a near blizzard. With the help of mobile technology and good back office communications a place was reserved on the return Ferry and our technician located our truck & driver and there was much relief on boarding the ferry.
The likelihood of finding a hotel room that night with so many others stranded would have been quite small, and there was no way of knowing for how many days the airport would have been closed.
On arriving back at the Port of Birkenhead very early the next morning, the news that greeted our intrepid travellers, was that travel of any kind was being discouraged across much of the UK, as conditions were so bad.
News that a train full of passengers had become marooned overnight in Surrey, (not far from London) and many airports (including Southampton) were closed left some considerable doubt over their ability to make the 300 mile journey by road back to our Workshops in Chichester on the South Coast. Conversely, the journey became one of the quietest and easiest imaginable with almost no other vehicles on the roads which were mainly clear and passable. Our technician was dropped off at Southampton Airport, where he managed to recover the car he’d driven there the previous (snow free) morning, both truck and car then continued back in Chichester the truck was unloaded. Our technician travelled home by road and our driver needed to make an onward journey home, by rail with the possibility of delays and cancellations all the way. Nevertheless, he made it home safely and in time for dinner.
Well, we aim for carefully planned and executed deliveries. Sometimes things go against us, but as you can see, even in difficult conditions we get the job done and then get home in time for tea.