From Earthquakes to Incarceration, Nothing Stands in Marken’s Way…

Challenge: A massive earthquake (8.8 on the Richter scale) rocked Chile in the early morning hours of February 27th, 2010. When the earthquake struck, nearly one hundred people lost their lives, and there were dire warnings of a potential tsunami. Airlines ceased operation and for a short time all transportation stopped. By Monday morning, the airport in Santiago was operational, but only for passenger travel; no cargo was moving by air.

Solution: Marken’s first priority was to call our offices to check on the safety of our employees. Once this information was in hand, we began the process of contacting our clients to advise them of the current situation with respect to pick-up and delivery of critical clinical trial samples. Sunday and Monday were the most complicated days, as Marken attempted to get information regarding the re-opening of airports and customs clearing, as well as updates from the Ministry of Health. After getting sketchy information, Marken discovered that the airports would not be able to move any samples until at least Wednesday. 

As the office phone lines were still operational, Marken began to receive routine client requests for pick-up and delivery of samples. There was no air cargo leaving the country, so Marken made provisions for two of its delivery vans, one from Argentina and one from Chile, to meet in the middle of the Andes Mountains. Each of the vans would then return to its home base with the critical samples being moved to Argentina. Because there were fuel availability issues in Chile, the van from Argentina also brought along a fuel tank to help ensure that the Chilean van would be able to make the return trip home without incident. Unfortunately, there were still problems ahead. 

When attempting to clear the samples through customs into Argentina, Marken ran into difficulty, mainly due to the lack of experience of the customs inspector. He was not used to seeing a biohazard label on materials crossing the border, and our driver was put into jail for a few hours while our shipment was confiscated by customs. Once we were alerted of the problem, Marken officials contacted Ministry of Health and Customs officers in Buenos Aires for assistance. 

Marken received approval letters and personal calls were made explaining the importance of the samples and clinical trials, and asking the border agents to release the shipments…not to mention our driver! They also allowed us to submit all the paperwork needed to reduce transit time. By late afternoon, Marken had delivered all the samples to the central lab on time and within specification. 

Outcome: Ten critical clinical trial samples were delivered to the central lab in time to keep the integrity of this part of the clinical trial intact. By the next day, the airports reopened and Marken was able to resume relatively normal operations.