Most precious cargo ever
Japanese space mission for Rickmers-Linie
Space may be the final frontier but in this instance, the craft setting out on a momentous voyage was not the starship Enterprise but Rickmers New Orleans, one of nine identical ships maintaining Rickmers-Linie's bi-weekly Round-the-World Pearl String service for heavy lift and project cargo. On board was the Experiment Logistics Module - Pressurised Section (ELM-PS), which forms part of the Japanese Experiment Module Kibo (meaning 'hope'), part of the Japanese contribution to the International Space Station (ISS).
Rickmers New Orleans loaded the ELM-PS in Yokohama on 7 February 2007 and discharged it in Port Canaveral, close to NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Rarely can a loading operation have been more closely scrutinised with executives from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and NASA joined by Bertram R C Rickmers, Chairman of the Rickmers Group, and Jan B Steffens, Managing Director of Rickmers-Linie. Kibo is Japan's first human space facility and its primary contribution to the ISS.
It will enhance the unique research capabilities of the orbiting complex by providing an additional environment in which astronauts can conduct scientific experiments. The ELM-PS as carried by Rickmers New Orleans, will serve as a storage area for materials, tools and supplies. It can hold up to eight experiment racks and being pressurised, astronauts will be able to work within in shirt-sleeve conditions. Conception and development of the ELM-PS which will be used mainly for micro gravity experiments took more than 10 years and is the most precious cargo ever carried by a Rickmers vessel.
The insurance value of the ELM-PS was a multiple of that of the carrying vessel and was launched into space by the space shuttle Endeavour on Mission STS-123 in 2008. The Japanese astronaut Takao Doi was on board the shuttle and visited the ISS to assemble Kibo. Nippon Express Ltd and Kokusai Aeromarine Ltd were involved as freight forwarders both in Japan and the US. The booking was arranged through Rickmers-Linie's own office in Tokyo, Rickmers Japan Inc, which was established in June 2006.
RICOSYS system pays off
Rickmers-Linie was entrusted with the transportation of the precious unit because of the schedule reliability of its liner service and the extensive preplanning provided. Handling,securing and lashing of the unit was simulated in the shipping company's Hamburg headquarters building using Rickmers-Linie's unique 3D-cargo management system RICOSYS prior to booking and transportation, thus resulting in the seamless preparation of the operation.
Rickmers New Orleans made a pinpoint arrival on schedule at Port Canaveral on 11 March 2007, thus safeguarding the timetable of the Japanese ISS participation.