Maintaining the chill

Published: Monday, March 14, 2016

The global cold chain is expected to grow at a compound annual growth (CAGR) rate of 13.9 percent from 2015 to 2020, according to a report from Zion Research. While the global cold chain market stood at 552.09 million cubic meters in 2014, in terms of volume, meat, fish and seafood dominated the market with around 45 percent share of the total market the same year. The report suggests that the global cold chain market valued at $110.20 billion in 2014 is expected to reach $271.9 billion by 2020.

Meat, fish and seafood requires cold chain storage to avoid wastage as these products are extremely perishable. Transportation of perishable food shipments remain the most demanding process for transportation providers. Not only are they time and temperature sensitive, but also undergo high food safety measures.

Seafood market

Since the opening of Emirates SkyCentral in DWC, the airline has shipped over 6000 tonnes of sustainably sourced seafood, ranging from Skipjack Tuna from the Maldives to American Lobster from Boston. Emirates Sky Cargo’s principal markets for seafood export are Karachi, Boston, Glasgow, Dublin, Cape Town, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Beijing and Singapore. Cathay Pacific has a global network for Fresh LIFT. For fish and seafood, traffic mostly comes from South West Pacific, South East Asia, Sri Lanka, North America, South Africa, Canada and also Europe.

The most commonly transported seafood on Norwegian Airlines are Norwegian king crabs, halibut, cod and salmon are particularly common on the east coast of the US, “our long-haul network is well connected with Europe as we serve New York and from March 27th, Boston from the UK and Scandinavia where seafood is extremely popular,” said Bjorn-Erik Barman-Jensen, Norwegian Airlines Cargo Head.

Temperature specifications

It is of utmost importance that the temperature should be kept as low as possible throughout the handling chain. At harvest, fish and seafood are chilled at 0 degrees centigrade in ice or submerged in -2 degrees centigrade.

From that point onwards, the temperature for any kind of fresh fish and seafood must be kept between -1 degrees Centigrade to 1 degree Centigrade, to optimize their shelf life. For frozen products, the ideal temperature to preserve the products is under -23 degrees Centigrade. Ms. Moaza Al Falahi, Product Development and Local Affairs VP at Emirates Sky Cargo noted, “Fish and seafood are highly perishable products and need to be stored at temperatures between 2-8 degrees centigrade to maintain their freshness. Otherwise, these products turn bad quickly. Emirates Sky Cargo has a full range of temperature-controlled solutions, including the Emirates FEATURE FEATURE Sky Cargo White Cover, a protective skin that shields the cargo from direct sunlight to keep them cold. At our hub, Emirates Sky Central at Al Maktoum International-Dubai World Central (DWC), we maintain15000 square meters of dedicated storage for temperature-sensitive goods.”

Bjorn-Erik Barman-Jensen added, “Maintaining the chill is a crucial factor for ensuring seafood arrives at its destination in the best possible condition and ready for sale. Our Boeing 787 Dreamliners are capable of maintaining a precise temperature within one degree of accuracy in the hold which is pivotal to delivering fish in a saleable condition.”

Handling methods A good shipment packaging is a pre-requisite ensuring that the delivery stays fresh. Shipper should ensure that its packaging is safe for long airfreight journey. The airline is required to provide a handling priority for seafood and fish shipment.

Jack Lo, Cathay Pacific’s Cargo Product and Marketing Manager, said, “Most shipment requires airlines to provide a late acceptance cut off time to maximize their catch and prolong perishables staying in their tank. Hence, airlines must be flexible to accept shipment very late. Perishable needs to be delivered to the market promptly. Cathay Pacific has a vast network that can mostly meet shipment delivery time to the market. We offer to handle priority for Fresh LIFT cargo from arrival flight to our warehouse for delivery. Most of our warehouse at our global network would have a perishable delivery center dedicated for perishable shipment acceptance and release. It would ensure shipment can be released to the agent as soon as possible.”

Ms. Moaza added, “Fish and seafood are kept in temperaturecontrolled containers such as our White Container, which can maintain the desired temperature range for at least six hours. Before the products are placed inside the containers, they first need to be properly packaged by the customer in accordance with the IATA PCR (Perishable Cargo Regulation) guidelines. Through the storage and transportation process, our Cool Chain system ensures that the products are maintained at their required temperature consistently.”

According to Mr. Lourival Martins, Founder and President of Grupo Martins, fresh fish should be handled with the quantity of ice consistent with the amount of fish (2kg of ice for 1kg of fish) and the distance they travel.

Finnair Cargo’s Compliance and Standards Manager Henry Rantala noted, “Based on exact preliminary information through booking, the handling phases in cargo terminal are carefully planned following the principle that the seafood time out of the cold room is minimized. This applies also to ramp transport and aircraft loading. As far as possible hold temperature is set according to shipper’s temperature request.”

Regulations followed From airlines point of view, IATA’s Perishable Cargo Regulations (PCR) and IATA’s Live Animals Regulations (LAR) are the most important to be followed.

According to Emirates SkyCargo, every country has its own seafood air transport regulations and these include variances about packaging, labeling and documentation. The airline has to comply with the regulations of each market that they operate in. Regarding regulatory compliance, Cathay Pacific affirmed that the shipper would be the key stakeholder with this regard, “As an airline, we would follow each authority instructions, and again, would facilitate prompt customs clearance in a best possible way,” said Jack Lo. Norwegian Airlines pointed out that the responsibility is with the freight forwarder to provide all approved health and sanitary documentations for import and exports. This is especially important for seafood shipment, which is temperature-sensitive and requires a quick and efficient supply chain.

Challenging aspects All cargo that is perishable, including seafood, fruits and flowers, vegetables and pharmaceuticals must be carefully handled with temperature control solutions. The key is to ensure that they are kept at the constantly required temperature range as not to affect the product’s shelf life. Close attention is paid toward all perishable movements, but extra particular attention has to be given toward the movements of temperature sensitive healthcare products.

In this instance, people’s health and lives are dependent on the products. Ms. Moaza noted, “Both seafood and pharmaceutical products require temperature-controlled transportation. Our cool chain solution ensures that the correct temperatures are maintained throughout the transportation process. Pharmaceutical products and healthcare products, due to their highly sensitive nature and product value, require more robust temperaturecontrolled solutions with additional features. Emirates SkyCargo offers its customers additional value solutions including storage in active temperature-controlled containers to maintain a constant temperature, monitoring online and prioritized ground handling. We also cater to the passive packaged shipment using our Cool Chain Advanced solution, which is complemented by processes, storage facilities and equipment like the Cool Dolly.”

Henry Rantala reaffirmed, “Rather than classifying any particular perishable cargo type as challenging, I would say that sometimes perishable shipments, which are booked in urgency on the same flight having different conflicting temperature requests may require new periodization.”

According to Jack Lo,

“Hot summers are definitely a challenge. As airport tarmac mostly uncovered and it is scorching moving cargo on the tarmac that may affect shipment. We do offer priority towing of Fresh LIFT product to reduce shipment from suffering high tarmac heat in summer.”

However, Jack Lo classified pharmaceutical cold chain transport as the most demanding perishable than perishable shipping because pharmaceutical companies can invest more on shipment packing due to drugs at a much higher value than seafood, “We are required to ensure that our facility can handle large shipment or not. Therefore, our wide-body aircraft is suitable for Fresh LIFT transport. We also need to be able to facilitate prompt customs clearance so that shipment can release much faster than other cargo, including pharmaceuticals.”

Staff training Besides the adoption of IATA’s Perishable Cargo Regulations, all of the staff handling sensitive perishable cargo is given perishable training at some point.

The staff handling perishable cargo at the Emirates SkyCargo is specially trained in the handling of temperature-controlled storage equipment. They strictly adhere to a comprehensive list of operating procedures to ensure that the cargo is properly handled at all times.

Lourival Martins, noted, “The transport of fresh cargo or even other special materials carried that require temperature control is always a challenge because we depend on a lot of people for everything to go perfectly as planned. That is why we train our staff and we always choose partners trained for such tasks. Moreover, our operating department receives special training for this kind of shipping and handling.”

“Coming from Norway, seafood is a popular export. Our handlers have to be capable of operating with speed and care. We regularly ship around 12 tonnes of fish on an average year round on our Bangkok flights from Scandinavia alone. Our handlers have extensive experience transporting seafood. They ensure that it is stored at the correct temperature at every stage, ensuring the maintenance of the cold chain during the whole process,” maintained Norwegian’s Head of Cargo Bjorn-Erik Barman-Jensen.

Preferred transportation mode Transportation by air enables the seafood to reach the customer in a much faster manner, thereby preserving its freshness. By reducing its shipping time, shippers can increase the shelf life to the end consumer.