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LTL Shipping With Ferdinand Magellan

CC image courtesy of Dantadd via Wikimedia

You’ve heard of Christopher Columbus. You’ve heard of Marco Polo. You’ve heard of Magellan. BUT….Did you know that Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese explorer/captain/possible snack for Filipino tribal folks, was also an LTL shipper! Sort of. Kinda. Maybe if you REALLY stretch the definition of LTL.

Listen, he might not have used Central Freight, but he did use a bill of lading. Subsequently, he did not check his BOLs for accuracy and guess what? It screwed him. I do imagine if Magellan had one lasting thing to say to all you movers of freight out there, it would be this… Make sure your BOLs are correct or else you might run out of EVERYTHING, crash your ships, try to take over some tribes, make it 3/4 of the way across the world before dying a pretty awful death, and eventually after you’re long gone, your freight will show up ninety percent missing and you’ll have to start all over again. What a loss of time! What a loss of money! What a loss of life! That last one probably won’t apply to your LTL shipping experience, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from ol’ Ferdinand’s mistakes.

The story goes as such…In the aftermath of Columbus in the late 15th century, the old world was in a tizzy about spices and India and newly discovered continents. Like an Austinite loves tacos, they all wanted a piece. Say hello to Ferdinand Magellan, who in true explorer fashion couldn’t get the backing of his own nation (they all knew he was crazy) to fund a new trade route to the Spice Islands. Undeterred, Ferdinand goes to Spain and from Madrid he gets 5 ships and approximately 240 men. Needless to say, they didn’t get a parade on their return.

Now, it’s been talked about and talked about, but the best way to avoid issues in a complicated freight business is to make sure you have things in order BEFORE shipping. Like studying for a test or Christmas shopping, freight is infinitely easier when planned and tackled early. Unfortunately for Magellan, he didn’t have this shipping blog to warn him of the dangers of freight.

Magellan arrived in The Canary Islands to re-stock supplies for a few days, and it’s there he learned that the king of Portugal had dispatched multiple fleets to arrest him and transport him back to Portugal. Of course, Magellan knew if he was caught he would be chained and ultimately executed. Obviously, this would put a bit of dent in his circumnavigation plans.

Blame it on the fear of impending torture, but Magellan was swindled by the merchants of the Canary Islands. These merchants were experienced in deception, falsifying their BOLs and delivering far less than was promised. Now, if Magellan and his sailors would have paid more attention, counted their pieces, and checked their bills of lading, they quickly would have discovered the ruse.

Alas, Magellan and his crew, in an effort to keep plenty of ocean between himself and the Portuguese hunting party, departed The Canaries in a hurry, well short on supplies. These supplies, especially the food, were incredibly important for obvious reasons to the health and well-being of the crew and captain, and these shortages were not only dishonest but also incredibly dangerous. The lack of supplies would come back to haunt the Portuguese explorer – his crew ran low on food and supplies, eventually losing full ships and hundreds of crewman.

When it was all said and done for Ferdinand Magellan, contrary to popular history, he wasn’t the first to circumnavigate the globe (though his party was). Instead, Magellan was killed in a battle in the Philippine Islands in a turn of true old world imperialism. Now, we can’t go and blame his death and the destruction of his fleet on the lack of bill of ladings, but the fact remains that in the shipping world, whether it be 2013 or 1513, an attention to BOL accuracy is of paramount importance to a smooth shipping game.

Shippers –  confirm your BOLs match up with your freight and make sure you use the designated and correct BOL when handing your freight over to your driver. Consignees – on delivery, always remember to check your shipment for missing or damaged pieces. Do as Magellan should have done, read before you sign!!!


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