Marfret in French Guiana – Shipping to space

Kourou in French Guiana, the launch site for satellites and space probes, is at the epicentre of the European space project. The launch campaigns create intense activity on and around the launch pads and require a large quantity of sensitive, high-tech equipment of varying dimensions, containerizable or otherwise, to be shipped to companies based at the Guiana Space Centre. Marfret, which has been part of this space adventure for almost 40 years, provides these companies with reliable shipping services and dedicated technical expertise.

The ties built with these companies and the other stakeholders in the logistics chain (freight forwarders, haulage contractors, GSC logisticians) and our teams’ experience and expertise allows our local branch to offer a tailored service. We take a closer look at Marfret’s French Guiana branch, the spearhead of both the regular South America service and its SMIS special project arm.

Penetrating the secrets of planet Mercury

 The BepiColombo exploration mission was launched on 19th October, 2018, a joint mission headed by the European Space Agency and Japan’s JAXA and involving a consortium of 83 companies. That day, an Ariane V launcher successfully launched two space probes from the Guiana Space Centre on a voyage with an ETA of 2025! That success was only made possible by a flawless logistical organization.

On its own scale admittedly, Marfret is part of this space exploration mission. “Last June, we took charge of the systems used to deploy the two probes’ solar panels and then organized the return of all the BepiColombo campaign equipment to Europe at the end of the year. With our ships’ officers and our GLMP handling branch, we oversaw the loading of the 60 20’ and 40’ flat containers onto four ships. The departures were purposely staggered between October and December 2018, in order to ensure the best conditions for lashing the largest consignments but also to reduce terminal charges on departure and arrival,” explains Marfret Guiana branch manager Hugues Mounier.

Looking to the future and Ariane VI

Last year, Marfret organized the shipping from France to the GSC of two nozzles for the P120 solid rocket boosters for engine tests for the future launch vehicle. And last summer, on a different scale, it organized the shipping out and back of the special trolleys needed to transfer the launch table to the new launch pad.

Supporting French armed forces deployment

In December, 2018, Arianespace launched the French Army’s CSO-1 military surveillance satellite. The GSC’s security perimeter was reinforced for this sensitive launch, with the deployment of three Rafale and one AWACS aircraft. Here again Marfret was involved, shipping support equipment and aircraft spares on its weekly service that puts French Guiana at three weeks from Europe.

This regular service, in operation since 1982, was put in place to replace the occasional charter sailings to Dégrad-des-Cannes. The service has developed, adapting to local demand, and has supported the growth of the space business in French Guiana, which accounts for 9000 direct and indirect jobs representing 15% of the workforce in this French overseas territory.