Keeping it cool
© Hapag Lloyd

Keeping it cool

Anybody transporting perishable and sensitive produce will depend on a goodly portion of expertise. Transport temperature, humidity and air renewal all need to be set precisely at all times.

The Port of Hamburg is an essential hub for transport of foodstuffs throughout Germany. Packed in a container, nowadays the produce usually arrives aboard the seagoing vessel at the terminal. There it starts the last section of its usually lengthy journey by rail or truck. Yet one container is not identical with another. Especially for the transport of perishable and temperature- sensitive produce, the correct equipment is essential. Bananas from overseas, but also fish from Scandinavia need identical refrigeration throughout the trip, if quality is to be maintained. Dedicated reefer containers do the job.

Optimal Climate

Most reefer containers are equipped with similar technology. The principle there always remains the same. An integrated cooling unit and specific storage regulations keep the air in the box at the desired temperature. However simple the idea may sound, highly complex technology is essential for ensuring an uninterrupted cooling chain.

Fruit and vegetables, for example, are known in the transport industry as ‘living commodities’ and must be handled accordingly. After the harvest, they take in oxygen and give off carbon dioxide and ethylene gas. Were fruit and veg to be transported in a conventional container, the ripening process would continue uninterrupted. It would even be accelerated by rising temperatures in the interior of the box.

That would be fatal for such produce as bananas, with Germany annually importing around 1,400,000 tons. The journey from the top countries of origin in South and Central America frequently lasts more than ten days. To ensure that a banana arrives firm and fresh at a supermarket, Hapag-Lloyd, for example, makes use of the fruit’s breathing process.

Should sensors notice too high or too low a quantity of oxygen and/or carbon dioxide, ventilation is adjusted. Temperature is also automatically adjusted. By controlling the composition of the air in the reefer container, the shipping line also slows down the ripening process and lengthens the shelf-life of the sensitive produce. Depending on the type of fruit or veg, requirements of the transport climate differ, so a mass of expertise is required. Blueberries, for example, react sensitively to CO2.

These therefore travel in a reefer container with a vacuum pump and a possibility for gassing. Since it can be gassed during transport with carbon dioxide, as well as nitrogen, this type of container is especially suitable for produce whose natural ripening process does not suffice to produce the desired atmosphere.

Keeping it cool
Reefer containers always ensure the correct temperature of perishable goods, even in different climatic zones.

Optimal Monitoring

To enable customers to be sure that the refrigeration chain has not been broken at any point, Hamburg Süd equips reefer containers with RCM – Remote Container Management technology. In real time and along the complete transport chain, RCM monitors such parameters as temperature, relative humidity, oxygen and carbon dioxide concentration within the reefer container. Such data enable the supply chain to be better controlled, shaped distinctly more transparently, efficiently and safely. It thus releases immense potential for saving costs. Data on all essential steps in container transport – e.g., delivery at the terminal or loading and discharge of the vessel, can be retrieved by the customer. This can also be passed on to the recipient, for example. Should a pre-set parameter or threshold be reached, notification also follows automatically. In addition, if critical thresholds should be exceeded or undercut, the operations team receives an alarm signal. This enables them to intervene appropriately and ensure cargo quality. To make supervision of reefer cargo even simpler, Hamburg Süd has developed the virtual assistant ‘Captain Peter TM’. This new product offers comprehensive services relating to reefer shipments. One example of these consists of round-the-clock support from reefer cargo experts. Should Captain Peter warn customers with a personalized notification of problems during shipment of a container, the Hamburg Süd team is available at all times. To bring the cargo to the recipient in the desired quality, a Plan B can then be drawn up together. In addition, relevant data on the entire shipment can be downloaded and analysed.

Learn more

Click this link to view a video from YouTube. This might expose you to third party tracking. By clicking this link you agree to YouTube's privacy policy.

More articles from the magazine