DidYouKnow posts related to temperature controlled courses.

Transporting perishables across the equator

Written by: Lidia Slawinska, Consultant

The end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century has brought tremendous progress to social, industrial and environmental aspects of society – all as part of the larger globalisation trend. In this issue of the #DidYouKnow series we look at how globalisation has affected the ability for us to receive perishable products from the other side of the globe and made it possible for us to diversity our diets with foods from other  climates.

We are talking about, of course, the cold chain. New technologies in reefer transport and logistics have made it possible for the market of cold chain products to expand. The reefer is essentially a homogeneous transport product, but it works with markets that have a very broad range of products, ranging from pharmaceuticals to perishable foods (and even fresh flowers). How is it that we are able to find fresh avocados from Peru in our local (European)_supermarkets? How are delicacies from the Southeast Asian countries reaching our homes? The areas which produce the most perishable products—the southern states of the USA (California, Florida, Texas, Arizona), Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Caribbean, South America, and Southeast Asia—have in the past faced great marketing challenges due to their distance from the major markets of Eastern and Central United States, Canada, the Far East or Europe.  It is through the wonders of intermodality and temperature-controlled transport – a supply chain that ends at the door of the final consumer – that we can enjoy the tropical delicacies in the old continent.

What are the factors that need to be taken into account when transporting perishable?

Fresh products continue to metabolize and eat up their nutrients throughout their shelf life. This process begins with the harvest or slaughter, and continues through packing, distribution, marketing and the final sale. The decomposition processes are all dependent upon temperature – the higher the temperature, the faster the degradation.

“In fact, as a general rule, most of these degradation processes double their rate for each increase of 10°C [1]” – a vital statistic for shippers and transport operators who need to preserve the integrity of their cargo during long-distance journeys.

This so-called Q10 quotient means that maintaining an edible product’s temperature at 10C less than the temperature during which it is handled can almost double the product’s shelf life. Though this is not a universal rule that can be applied to all products (some sub-tropical fruit can suffer damages due to extremely low temperatures), it is significant enough for professionals to consider, and thus offset their their losses.

When tropical delicacies are transported to opposite corners of the world, uniform quality in both product appearance and taste are essential. This is why packaging, refrigerating, pre-cooling, and storing are vital – the inability to do  effectively will result in a waste of product, time and losses in profits.

Packaging

It is important to note, that alongside the refrigeration tactics used by transporters, packaging also takes centre stage – in particular in the cases of fruits and vegetables, plants, and cut flowers. Proper packaging ensures product protection during transport and facilitates transport. Improperly sized containers, for example, topped with rough handling by port infrastructures can lead to products damage. Overfilling can cause bruising and can also lead to decreased compression strength inside the container. Underfilling a container can also cause product damage by allowing for the product to move during uneasy transport conditions (rough seas, irregular road surfaces, etc).

Overall it is vital to ensure that the containers are properly packaged and prepared, with detailed considerations of the temperatures required for the preservation of the transported products. Knowing exactly what are the different stages and characteristics of this preparation will help you create a durable, efficient and sustainable cold chain.

Choosing the mode of transport

As previously hinted, the transport of temperature-sensitive goods is very particular, and therefore it is imperative to choose the correct mode of transport to ensure high quality services and product delivery. Intermodality plays a key role, as sometimes different modes would need to be used to maximise the efficiency of the cold chain. Once precooled, the items would need to be carefully loaded onto appropriate packaging and transported at stable temperatures. Therefore, the design and condition of the equipment used will need to be considered, alongside the mode of transport to be used (which depends on the distance to be crossed).

These decisions should be made in consideration with the following:

  • Destination – where is the product heading
  • Value of the product – are there certain losses that can be accepted by the client?
  • Degree of product perishability – how temperature sensitive are the products?
  • Amount of product to be transported
  • Recommended storage temperature and relative humidity – important to take into account in particular with precooling and storage steps
  • Outside temperature conditions at origin and destination points
  • Time in transit to reach destination by air, land, or ocean transport – Refrigerated trailers and van containers are generally preferred for most high volume transports during a week or more
  • Freight rates negotiated with the carriers – Services and schedules can change on a weekly basis. Are door-to-door services offered (generally the case with carriers who use containers and trailers, but air cargo has also been know to transport highly perishable goods). Air freight is considerably more costly and does not tend utilise refrigerated containers (although refrigerated air containers are used) – but the transit time is generally given in hours instead of days / weeks.
  • Quality of transportation service – which can usually be gauged through past customer reviews, local trade publications, port authorities, among others.

On top of using the correct mode of transport, customers should also familiarise themselves with the refrigeration systems used to understand what kind would best protect their product. Some companies may opt for mechanical systems (which use diesel generated electric power), cryogenic (which use liquid or gaseous nitrogen), dry ice (low-cost but highly effective method to keep temperatures down), wet ice (which tend to be used as supplements to other cooling mechanisms and get placed on top of the containers to avoid product contamination), gel refrigerants (frozen containers of chemical eutectic gel to help maintain lower temperature within larger containers), ventilation (preferred for live-cargo and high – emission products as it employs a method of using air ventilation to circulate the buildup of CO2 or ethylene, etc). Though not extensive, this list demonstrates the large array of possible options that operators in the cold chain use.

From the above it is evident that the cold chain requires a myriad of additional considerations on top of the usual decisions that need to be taken when planning an efficient and sustainable transport chain. Through technological advancements we can now transport fresh vegetables from Almeria to the United Kingdom, and help transport fruit, tomatoes and other vegetables from the Northern shores of Africa and the Eastern Mediterraenean to the countries of the E.U, alongside tropical vegetables form the far East and West. All without worrying about significant product deterioration or losses.

These, and other topics, are covered in the Escola’s Technical Course on Temperature Controlled Transport. For more information about the upcoming edition, you can head to the course page, or contact us as info@escolaeuropea.eu.

Want to know more? Check out these additional resources:

Temperature controlled logistics: Spotlight on pharmaceuticals

Professionals operating in the field of temperature controlled logistics need to take into account the condition of the products across all stages of the supply chain – beginning with storage and product preservation, through the transport of the cargo that is sensitive to changes in temperatures or varying atmospheric conditions, up until delivery to the customer. This broad spectrum of products includes pharmaceuticals, which need to be handled under particularly strict conditions as any changes may affect chemical stability or alter their properties, and cause serious health-related consequences to the end-consumers as a result. To ensure that these changes do not occur, pharmaceutical companies have to be able to prove that their products are transported through a stringently temperature controlled supply chain. It is vital that all parties involved, from the producer, conveyor to end customer are assured and can prove the integrity of the cargo.

The responsibilities in the temperature controlled supply chain vary among each of the parties. While the carrier needs to be responsible for preserving the transport conditions indicated for each type of medicine, the producer needs to ensure that the carrier is aware of the acceptable margins of error for temperature changes, what are the risks that may be acceptable, and what actions should be avoided to preserve the integrity of the product, etc.

Companies operating in the pharmaceutical cold chain should be kept up to date with the latest market regulations and standard rules. Due to the complexity of transporting these types of cargo, this task can be challenging. In the EU, the Directive 2001/83/EC is the foremost legal document guiding the production, distribution and use of medicinal products. In addition, other organisations regulate and establish new procedures, including theWorld Health Organization, Parenteral Drug Association, International Air Transport Association, Pharmacopeia, among others.

Though it is important to recognise that different medicines and different transport methods have their own characteristics of preparation and transport, there are general considerations that must be taken into account regardless of the pharmaceuticals being transported. This includes questions such as whether the storage facilities at the destination similar to those of the origin. Refrigerated vehicles or passive cooling systems will have to be considered to ensure the drugs not be compromised en-route. Minimising the amount of time the pharmaceuticals spend at ambient temperatures is critical, especially in warmer climates. The load needs to be securely stowed inside the transport units to ensure uniform air circulation and temperature distribution. Frequently, the use of temperature and humidity measuring devices is recommended.

Air freight temperature controlled logistics

Air cargo transport is the most popular method of transport for cargo with high levels of temperature control. Air transport is advantageous when it comes to speed issues, overcoming geographical obstacles or lack of infrastructure for other means of transport. The main weakness of this type of transport? It is extremely expensive, both in financial costs and in terms of the  environmental footprint.

Sea freight temperature controlled logistics

Around 20% of pharmaceutical payloads are moved via ocean freight. Sea freight temperature controlled logistics is substantially cheaper when compared to air freight shipping. It also offers a more controlled environment in comparison to air transport. There are fewer control points and disruptions, as sea freight cargo will not be touched until it reaches its final destination. With new technologies in the maritime sector, the transport units allow tracking and monitoring in real time (a big plus for the clients!). There are few load movements, which limits the potential breaks in the cold chain and potential exposure of the products to ambient temperatures. The main weakness? It is considerably slower than air transport.

In general, there is an enormous mindset that this type of products due to their characteristics and specificities must be transported by air.

The main question thus is: Air or sea freight transport? Sea freight, done well, is an excellent mode in the right circumstances, though the same is true of airfreight. It is understandable that emergencies will always require medicines to be transported rapidly from point of origin to destination, but with tighter regulations on the temperature control and cold logistics chain in the pharmaceutical industry ensured by the maritime authorities, the gap between air and sea freight is closing in.

Intrigued? Check out our upcoming course on Temperature Controlled Supply Chains.

Written by:

  • Raquel Nunes – Co-Founder of YoungShip Portugal

#DidYouKnow – A short story of the refrigerated container

This week we wanted to discuss the evolution of the refrigerated container. Reefer transport, one using refrigerated trucks, trailers and shipping containers is used to ship items that require temperature-controlled environments. Reefer freight is vital nowadays due to the time and temperature sensitive cargo being shipped across larger and larger distances in shorter time frames.

Before modern-day shipping containers appeared in the mid-20th century, loading and unloading of vessels comprised very labour-intensive and time-consuming exercises. Barrels, sacks and wooden crates of various sizes and shapes were used to carry goods to the port, where they were then loaded onto the dock and transferred to waiting ships for their oceanic journeys.

Back in the 16th century seafood products were very popular but, due to the difficulty in transporting them, were limited to people living near coastal areas, rivers or lakes.

In the early 1800’s ice and salt were placed under and alongside cargo with the aim to reduce spoilage. Though an improvement, it was still impractical. Livestock was dying in transit resulting in significant profit losses for farmers. Meat products were also going off before reaching their final destinations.

  1. 1867. The first patent for refrigerated rail cars was granted to J.B Sutherland from Detroit. His design for reefers included a special holding area for ice at each end of the purpose built box car.
  2. 1876. Charles Tellier, the “Father of the Cold”, created the 1st ether-based refrigeration system to maintain a temperature of 0°C inside the boxes. Their tiny size allowed scientist to install three of them on a steamboat called “The Frigorific.”
  3. 1877. Another French engineer, Ferdinand Carré, perfected Charles Tellier’s system, managing to ship 150 tonnes of frozen meat over 50 days, from Sydney to the UK, in a ship equipped with compression refrigeration. The journey successfully transported all perishable cargo without any incidents.

1900’s. The 1st refrigerated vessels specially designed to transport bananas, such as the Port Morant, appeared in 1901. CO2 machines were then used to reduce the temperature and control it. This marked a decisive step forward for the transport of temperature sensitive fruit.

Mid-way through the 1930’s the first portable air-cooling unit was invented by Fred Jones. These units were placed on the outside of trucks that carried perishable foods. By the late 1930’s refrigerated trailers were reaching 38-40 feet in length.

It is not until the 1950s/60s that we entered the golden age of refrigerated containers, a real revolution in the shipping world. By then reefer transport was better controlled and new foodstuffs, such as tropical fruits or even meat, could be shipped across any ocean.

The 1970s saw the arrival of refrigerated containers especially designed to be transported by container carriers. Reefer containers existed in various shapes and sizes each were equipped with their own, separate cooling units controlling the inside atmosphere. Onboard a ship, the reefers were plugged into the onboard power supply system. At the terminals or when carried inland they were connected to reefer plug points or provided with a clip-on generator sets. This system is still largely in use today within the cold supply chain.

The Future: new systems are being created and are already in operation that make controlling various parameters of the container remotely possible. These include temperature control, accidents, door openings, alarms, etc. This type of smart technology will enable a better control of container transport from its origin to the destination.

The success of companies that transport temperature-controlled products comes down to knowing how to ship a product with temperature control adapted to the shipping circumstances and to each type of equipment used, as well as their knowledge of the requirements of each perishable goods type. We are now in the twentieth century and we are seeing a glimpse of the power that the Internet of Things has over transport equipment. At the Escola we are excited to see how the reefer containers continue to evolve and facilitate safe and rapid transport.

Intrigued? You can learn about reefer containers and temperature-controlled supply chains in our technical course dedicated especially to this type of transport. Register now here.

Written by:

  • Raquel Nunes, Training Programmes & External Relations Manager (Escola Europea – Intermodal Transport)

What training do we need to effectively manage temperature-controlled supply chains?

The success of industries that rely on cold storage supply chains comes down to knowing how to ship a product whose temperature needs to be tailored to the circumstances of the transport. Cold chain operations have substantially improved in recent decades and the industry is able to respond to the needs of a wide range of products.  Moving a shipment through the supply chain without suffering any setbacks or temperature anomalies requires the establishment of a comprehensive logistics process that maintains the integrity of the freight.

Most of the accidents of refrigerated cargo are caused by wrong consolidation operations. To make the most of the available space and to cut costs, exporters or importers tend to use all of the space of the transport units, not taking into account that for perishable shipments two vital things have to be considered: air flow between the cargo; and the types of freight that can be combined.

Understanding the functionality of a container and air flow circulation is essential to comprehending how to export such cargo. The Escola has identified the need for training in this industry and undertook upon itself to train its students on the operations of a refrigerated container to ensure safe and intact delivery of the goods at their final destinations.

For example, a common fallacy is to assume that a refrigerated container serves to freeze the loads within in. These units are designed to maintain a steady temperature throughout the transport chain, while the goods should be frozen or correctly stored prior to collection.

Aside from the transport equipment required, the majority of carriers of perishable goods aren’t familiar with the remaining operations throughout the logistics chain. The Escola considers it essential for the companies that operate with this type of cargo to have a complete knowledge of the chain to understand how the goods control, transport, inspections and other necessary procedures are carried out. Only a complete understanding and consideration will ensure the integrity and quality of the cargo at the end of the day. To explain such a well-structured procedure, visits, case studies and practical workshops are fundamental.

All of these topics are dealt with in depth in the specialized training in Temperature Controlled Supply Chains offered by the Escola Europea, which will take place from 6 to 9 May 2019 in Barcelona. The main objective is for people to know what are the best planning and execution practices in each of the stages of the cold storage supply chain and, specifically, those that utilise intermodal transport. The legal aspects surrounding such operations are also analysed during the training.

The idea of offering a course with these characteristics arose from an analysis of the evolution of supply chains and from the demands of professionals and students alike. They called for more specialized training that would facilitate visits to the leading operators in the sector that carry out the practical parts of the operations. The course includes the active participation of companies and entities active in the sector of perishable products in Barcelona such as Mercadona, Frimercat, Cultivar, PIF, Barcelona Container depot service SL, Tmz and Port de Barcelona.

If you’re interested and want to know more, you can take a look at the course programme: https://www.escolaeuropea.eu/calendar/temperature-controlled-supply-chains/. Registrations are open all the way through to the end of April

#DidYouKnow – Main terms in temperature controlled supply chains

For the first article of the #DidYouKnow series in 2019, a focus on temperature controlled supply chains was made. What are the main terms? What is refrigerated transport and why does it need specialized care? What kind of specialized equipment / procedures would be needed for a safe and efficient supply chain?

In this post we will explore some of the main aspects of this type of transport.

1.   Refrigerated Equipment – Sanitary and Condition Inspection

The equipment used to transport food items requires a higher level of inspection and maintenance than conventional aspects. Equipment needs to be clean, sealed and otherwise suitable for the transport of food items. Improper or incomplete cleaning and / or sanitisation practices allow contaminants to spread, and thus merchandise to perish. The responsibility to clean, sanitize and inspect equipment involved in the supply chain applies to all parties involved – shippers, carriers, loaders and receivers. Nevertheless, shippers continue to hold primary responsibility for the sanitary conditions of transport. Generally the different reefer equipment suppliers set the cleaning criteria for all to follow, though occasionally the clients can establish the minimum requirements of cleanliness according to their own quality standards and procedures.

Cleaning and Sanitation Procedures

Cleanliness prevents bacterial, chemical, and odor contamination of food products. Removing all loose debris and washing or sweeping the floors clean are necessary processes in this transport mode.

Certain food products, such as fatty or oily goods including butter and meats, are highly susceptible to strong odor contamination. Fresh fruit, such as apples and bananas, are also susceptible to odor absorption. It is thus better to separate the different food products to avoid cross-contamination. Moreover hauling extremely odorous products such as fish or cabbage require intensive cleaning procedures that will prevent odor contamination of other and future shipments.

Sanitation Standards

Shippers are required to develop and implement procedures that specify their practices for the cleaning, sanitizing and inspecting of their equipment. Factors that need to be considered include:

  • How the vehicle/equipment is being used; and
  • The production stage of the food being transported (raw vs. finished product; open vs. closed package).

2.   Airflow

Proper airflow throughout the refrigerated box is critical in maintaining good quality products. Poor air distribution is one of the primary causes of product deterioration.

When loaded properly, there should be sufficient airflow to maintain cargo temperature throughout the entire cargo space. Physical obstructions or restrictions within the box can cause poor airflow and result in product ‘hot spots,’ contributing to the deterioration of the perishable products.

Stowage inside the reefer container

When consolidating a Reefer container it is important to consider the type of merchandise and packaging used. This helps decide the best consolidation pattern for the cargo based on air circulation requirements around or between the products in the load.

As a general rule, pre-refrigerated frozen cargo only requires airflow around the product, while refrigerated goods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, require airflow throughout the cargo. This is because refrigerated products generate heat from breathing, which must be eliminated to prevent the cargo from being damaged by temperature changes.

It is essential that when stowing a Reefer container the entire floor is covered up to the edge. This ensures a uniform circulation of air around the container. In cases where the cargo does not cover the entire floor, a filler or dunnage is used to cover empty areas. This is also used to cover central panels containing empty spaces between pallets within a consolidated shipment.

Correct stowage is extremely important to the carriage of containerized reefer cargo. It is important to know that this is frequently outside of the control of the carrier. Cargo is often received in a sealed container already pre-loaded with a specific cargo.

3.   Refrigerated transportation

Refrigerated transportation is a method for shipping freight that requires special, temperature controlled vehicles. The vehicles transporting the products being shipped have built-in refrigeration systems that keep products at desired temperatures throughout the transportation process.

The first rudimentary version of refrigerated transportation was born in the 1800s, when cargo transporters would place ice and salt below temperature-sensitive goods in train cars. Unsurprisingly, this process was not the most efficient and inevitably led to major losses in the value of goods.

In the twentieth century more efficient modes of refrigerated transportation were developed, and improvements in technology have given birth to what is now called the cold chain logistics.

Written by Raquel Nunes, Training Programmes & External Relations Manager, Escola Europea – Intermodal Transport

 

Intrigued? What to know more?

Register today for the 2019 edition of the Escola’s Technical course on Temperature Controlled Supply Chains, which will take place between the 6th and 9th of May in Barcelona. Find out more here: https://www.escolaeuropea.eu/calendar/temperature-controlled-supply-chains

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