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How Much To Ship A 100-Ton MRI Magnet?

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At 100 tons, the world’s largest MRI magnet wasn’t exactly a candidate for overnight delivery.

In fact, it took the air and ocean freight shipping specialist DHL Global Forwarding two years to plan and carry out the transfer of the magnet from Oxford in the United Kingdom to the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

The magnet will make up the heart of the world’s first 10.5 tesla whole-body human scanner. As you might expect, CMRR Director Kamil Ugurbil, PhD, is thrilled:

We expect to take the study of the human brain to a new level of sophistication with this system.

Dr. Ugurbil was quoted in a university news release.

Agilent Technologies built the scanner. Even the Oxford warehouse that stored it had to be reinforced to handle its weight. A new lift system had to be installed to load it onto an eight-axle trailer to begin its journey. Nikola Hagleitner, CEO of DHL’s Industrial Projects subdivision, admitted in a company news release that the job was anything but routine:

Even though we do have a lot of experience in heavyweight cargo transports, this project has really been an interesting challenge for us.

The scanner first traveled to Antwerp, Belgium, with a police escort (mandatory because of its size) during the UK portion of the trip. From Antwerp, a ship took it on a monthlong voyage across the Atlantic and all the way to Duluth, Minnesota, on the last vessel to make it across the Great Lakes before ice ended the navigation season.

In Duluth, the magnet nestled onto a 19-axle, 193-foot trailer that required two tractor trucks, one in the front and one in the back, for propulsion. After two days on the road, escorted all the way by state and local police and private security personnel, it arrived at the university on December 6.

The CMRR hopes to power up its new scanner by July. Researchers expect to take at least five years developing the technology before the machine begins producing usable scans.

The magnet cost somewhere north of $10 million. No word on the shipping charges.

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