Today I would like to talk about the packing of shipments. Once I have collected all the corals for a shipment(s), it is sent to the Jakarta export facility. This facility belongs to another exporter that we work with.
The corals arrive from Banuwangi, Bali, and Makassar. I usually fly in with the Makassar corals to Jakarta. Once all the corals arrive, they are placed into floating baskets. Then the corals are all separated into species. I always buy extra corals than what is needed for the shipment as there are always death on arrivals or damaged corals that we cannot send. If there are leftovers in the end, we take it back to our facility near my friend's house in East Jakarta. We have a system there with better lighting and filtration to keep the corals long term.
Then comes the arduous task of selecting the corals to be sent. If there are multiple orders for one shipment, the whole process can take all day. This is when I really start hurting. My back is killing me already from picking corals in the islands. Then I must do it again in Jakarta.
So here are the baskets. For this particular shipment, there were multiple orders. We had so many corals that we ran out of the baskets! All the baskets you see are our corals. After the corals are selected for the order according to the cites permit, little tags of styrofoam is placed into the baskets to keep the orders separate. You can see the small tags floating in the baskets. The first pond you see in the picture is the staging area for the corals to be shipped. The other ponds in the back are for simply holding.
Then large ice blocks in plastic bags are placed into the blue tub to cool the water for packing. The sides have small holes that allow the water to pass through as the cooled water is used up. Because of the large ice blocks, the water is cooled constantly. We do have plans to set up a separate system just for packing in the future. But meanwhile this system works ok. Usually there are two guys that put the correct amount of water in into the plastic bags and places the coral inside.
Many of the soft corals exhude chemicals during shipping. Charcoal is added to absorb some of these toxins.
Once the coral is placed into the bags, it is sent to an assembly line of baggers. These guys put oxygen in and rubber bands the bags. The bags are little loose, as if they are too tight, it may explode when the airplane goes up into the sky. The pressure can rupture the bags if they are too tight.
Once the corals are bagged, they are tagged and put into groups.
If we are not careful, it can get really confusing!
Once all the corals are bagged, they are written down onto a paper and the corresponding corals are placed into the boxes. A packing list is created.
This is a sample packing list paper. In this case, the guys have a numbering system that represents the corals. This save time when they are in a hurry.
This box is almost finished and ready to be taped up. But before that, inverts are placed into any space that is left in the box. We call these fillers. These are usually snails, crabs, starfish, etc.. This is a huge benefit for the customers, since the freight is already covered by the corals. So the inverts are actually landing almost without freight cost.
Here we are with some fillers ready to go. These happen to be fromia starfish. These fillers are bagged in the early beginning and put aside to be put into the boxes last.
The final step is to put these icepacks into the boxes. Better to keep the corals cool, as the heat can do some serious damage.
Then the boxes are taped up and sealed tight. Little tags of the consignee is taped onto the boxes. These tags are computer generated and printed out. Then it is cut with scissors and taped to the boxes.
This shipment is headed to my friend Abel of Marine Rock in the bay area.
Then a packing list is generated. The names of the corals are cut and placed onto the corresponding boxes.
And here is the finished box. It has the name of the consignee, a list of corals in the box, and a certified cites sticker. There is a representative from the Forestry to make sure that nothing else gets put into the boxes.
A scale is used to weigh the boxes. Believe it or not, this rusted old scale is still pretty accurate.
Then the boxes are put into a truck to be taken to the airport.
And here I am, happy to be almost finished. It has been a quite a journey, island hoping and back breaking to get to this point.
Check out my shirt. One of my old guys in the US got me this shirt. This is what happens if you get into the fish and coral business!
Sometimes, the airplane leaves in the morning and we have to start packing in the middle of the night. By morning, everyone is hungry and we ordered this semi noodle soup for breakfast.
Here are the guys taking a break before finishing the packing.
So now you guys have an idea of how the corals get sent off overseas. These are some of the things that are behind the scenes of the trade that no one talks about. I hope you have enjoyed this topic!
Finally, due to popular demand, let's go over a few corals that seem to be confusing people. These are not common corals and are extremely hard to find. Some of them I covered already in my other topics, but I will go over them again.
This beautiful (a little stressed) coral is a true Scolymia vitiensis. This is an incredible piece, the color is metallic red! Note the Austalomussa on the right hand corner.
This coral is an Acanthastrea rotundoflora. It resembles a chalice type of coral. It even plates out like an echinophyllia. This coral will turn into bright orange with bright green edges in artificial lighting. It may even develop green color around the eyes as well. Most of the time, this coral comes in from the ocean as dull orange or brown. If you got halides, place it a little lower down and watch it color up! One of the easiest corals to keep.
This is another rare acan species. It resembles a lobo but definitely is an acanthastrea. It has the typical colors of an acan, orange and green. A beautiful uncommon piece! If you ended up with this piece, make sure you put it lower in the tank as these rare acan species are found down deep.
Remember this coral? This is an Acanthastrea bowerbanki. Typical of the bowerbankis, in that there is a large central head surrounded by smaller heads. If the heads are about all equal in size, it is an echinata. I took this picture as it came in from the islands. It was badly stressed. Again it is a deeper water species.
Ok, that is it for this post. I will cover more cool corals and coral adventure activities tomorrow.