Warning !! Please use dewars for sample transport only.  A number of dewars have been found to contain scissors, syringes and even hard disks. Please do NOT transport such articles within a dewar transport box.

ESRF staff will now top up your dewars with liquid nitrogen on arrival at the ESRF and empty them before they are returned.  If you would like staff to do this please DO NOT close your dewars with cable ties.

When to send your dewar


Bank holidays - when can I send my dewar - click here for a calendar

Using ISPyB to track dewar

Dewar return

Dewar Insurance

Additional advice


  • Below are guidelines for users of the ESRF macromolecular beamlines who wish to send pre-frozen samples in dry-shippers.
  • All the costs for transporting frozen samples, to France and back home, are borne by the users. Some information is provided below on how to transport your samples using FEDEX within the European Union. We advise users to contact their courier company to obtain full details.
  • If you have problems contact Eric Fertin at the ESRF stores (tel: +33 (0)4 76 88 27 33), Thierry Caruana (tel: +33 (0)4 76 88 23 78). Alternatively IATA (the International Air Transport Association) can also help advise.
  • An special dewar email address is available: dewar-stores@esrf.fr
  • Make sure that sample sheets have been submitted for all samples you are sending for experiments. This needs to be done 3 days before sending the dewar to ensure that samples are validated and are safe to be sent to the ESRF.
  • Follow the steps below carefully in order to minimise the risk that frozen samples may neither arrive safely nor in time for your ESRF experiment.



When to send your Dewar

It is important to leave at least 3 days between sending the dewar and experiment start. If a problem occurs on a 24 hour delivery, it will NOT arrive on time and your trip will be wasted.

Be certain that the delivery takes place during week days 08:30-12:00 and 13:00-17.00. The ESRF stores are closed at the weekends and for French and ESRF holidays: No deliveries can take place on any of these days.


The Paperwork


A. From inside of the European Union

  • For the outward trip your chosen courier company will prepare an International Airway Bill which requires the following information:
  • Weight of package
  • The recipient's address:  ESRF Magasin,71 avenue des Martyrs, 38000 Grenoble. Tel: 33(0)476882733. Fax:33(0)476882347
  • Description of contents: "1 x dry-shipper containing frozen crystals for experiments at ESRF. Not dangerous. Not restricted, as per IATA special provision A152"

B. From outside of the European Union

  • Outside of the EU the courier company will still prepare an International Airway Bill as above but will also require a Proforma Invoice (usually five copies) from your Institution for customs purposes, as the dewar is being temporarily exported to France for the duration of the experiment. This will require the following information:
  • Shipper/Exporter: you at your home institution address
  • Consignee: ESRF Magasin, 71 avenue des Martyrs, 38000 Grenoble. Tel: 33(0)476882733. Fax:33(0)476882347
  • "Non-flammable gas 2"
  • Commercial value = $10 (or more, however, duty taxes will have to be paid if declared value is very high)
  • Country of origin:
  • Country of ultimate destination: France
  • Description of contents: "1 x dry-shipper containing frozen crystals for experiments at ESRF. Not dangerous."
  • You must make it clear to the courier company that the goods/container are to be returned to your institution and should therefore be treated by a temporary export procedure.

Use ISPyB to track your dewar

Detailed instructions on how to use ISPyB to track your dewar are given on the following web page ISPYB Dewar Tracking



In brief:

  1. Log in to IspyB using your experiment number and password
  2. Create a lab contact card. Important: Remember to fill in Courier name, Account Number and Billing reference.

  3. In the 'Shipment' tab 'Create shipment'. Complete all the fields and select an experiment from the list provided.
  4. At this point you may want to upload details of your samples using an excel template (more information here) - this is recommended but not obligatory for dewar tracking. You can skip this step.
  5. At this point labels are automatically generated.  Select 'comp.labels' click to open the pdf file. Print the labels
  6. Stick the first label on the dewar. The second label on the transport box. The third label should be placed inside the transport box, to be used for the return trip.
  7. Activate tracking by selecting 'Send shipment to ESRF'.  This will lock the shipment and further modifications (addition of dewars, containers, samples,...) will not be possible.  You will still be able to change sessions and modify Lab-Contaact information.  If you want to include sample information within this shipment - please do so before clicking 'Send to ESRF'.



The main contact will receive an email when your dewar arrives and when it leaves the ESRF.  You will also be able to check the beamline location through ISPyB.

Dewar Return.

After your experiment remove all old labels from the transport box before sticking on label 3.  If you have NOT provided Courier details, including company name and account number, please complete the following form and leave it with your dewar in the 'Out' rack next to the beamline. 

Dewar return form PNG


ESRF staff will now top up your dewars with liquid nitrogen and empty them before they are returned to the home lab.  If you would like staff to do this please DO NOT close your dewars with cable ties.


You can download a pdf version of this form here.


Insurance of Dewars sent by Courier to/from the ESRF

Although it is very rare that dewars get lost by courier companies during their transport to/from the ESRF, this does happen. The ESRF is unable to cover any such losses and below is advice on insurance values users should declare for the transport of dewars to/from the ESRF (if insured is desired) and on likely reimbursements in the case of loss.

 The values given below were obtained from FEDEX and are valid only for transport with in the European Union. We advise users to contact the courier company they use for dewar transport to obtain full details.

 Note: The value (i.e. to buy from new) of a dewar and its transport case containing 5 pucks full of SPINE standard pins held in a transport canister is ~3000 €. This value does NOT include that of any samples contained in the dewar.
The combined weight of the above material is ~ 20 Kg.


Likely reimbursements in the case of loss during transport:

  • If the value of the goods being transported is not declared the default reimbursement is ~ 20 €/ Kg – i.e.  for a 20kg package you will be reimbursed 400€ .
  • If the value of the shipment is declared as transport value additional insurance costs will be about 1% of the transport value on top of your shipment fee – i.e. for a shipment with a declared transport value of 3000 € insurance costs would add 60 € (30 € x 2) to the cost of shipping the dewar to/from the ESRF.
  • If the value of the shipment is declared as a customs value, in the case of loss FEDEX will reimburse at the minimum rate (i.e. ~ 20 €/ Kg ) and no additional costs for insurance will be incurred. In this case, however, it is possible that you can be reimbursed for any loss by the insurers of your laboratory. We encourage you to contact them to investigate this possibility.



Additional advice

For shipments from outside the EU and especially from the US,

  • "To Whom It May Concern:
    This shipment is a vapour phase liquid nitrogen dewar that contains 
    frozen samples, which were used for experiments at the European Synchrotron 
    Radiation Facility (ESRF). The samples are crystals of highly purified 
    protein from xxxx and present no biological hazard. The crystals were 
    produced at xxxx and and shipped to France for experiments at the
    ESRF. They are now being returned to xxxx. If there are any questions, 
    please contact me as quickly as possible.
    yours sincerely,
    Lab person at home institute to whom the dewar is addressed"
    • it is advisable to include an official letter (on headed paper) certifying that the contents of the dewar do not constitute a biological hazard. Refrain from using the term "genetic engineering" or "bovine". The USDA would probably be comforted by a letter along the following lines on a US institution's letterhead:
    • Moreover make sure that you send the dewar as "temporary export", otherwise you may have to pay customs duties when it is shipped back.