Latin America Trade 2005 - Steamships Reefer

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By Karen E. Thuermer, AJOT
Seafood is a global business. With demand for seafood far exceeding what US commercial fishermen and fish farmers produce, more than half the seafood consumed by Americans is imported. Approximately 1,000 US firms are in the business of importing fish and shellfish. US imports of edible fishery products in 2001 amounted to 4.1 billion pounds, at a value of $9.9 billion. Top imports included shrimp and tuna. US seafood importers obtain products from more than 130 nations. Major sources include Canada, Thailand, China, Ecuador, Chile and Mexico.
Maersk goes eeep freeze
Seafood and fish are extremely delicate commodities. Shipments must not be damaged and must arrive fresh and safe to eat. Consequently, fish must be shipped at one of four temperature ranges, depending on the ultimate use of the fish. If fish is to be sold or served fresh (chilled), it is usually shipped via air. But if fish is shipped frozen, it can be transported by steamship line in containers set at 0 Fahrenheit or -4F in regular reefers, or special MAGNUM® reefers at -31F, or in special Super Freezer reefers at -76F. The latest reefer technology that has been developed to carry frozen cargo is the “MAGNUM®” reefers, manufactured by Thermo King Corporation.
“Typically, the colder you keep the perishable commodity, the longer shelf life it has,” says Barbara Pratt of Refrigerated Services - Maersk Inc. North America (NAM). “Of course, it will vary based on specific, genetic content, but that is a general rule for all reefer commodities, and typically applies to fish also.”
To achieve these special temperatures, the reefer designs are configured with different refrigerants and controller microprocessor logic than those used by other perishable commodities.
“There also have been some trial shipments of fresh (chilled fish) under controlled atmosphere on ocean vessels, but these shipments do not involve significant volumes yet,” reveals Pratt. “Fish move globally and the routings depend on the seasonality and species of fish one is interested in. Much also depends on whether the fish is farmed, or taken directly from the ocean relative to the temperature that the fish is received at for transport.”
Globally, 570,778 container reefer units are employed by steamship lines operating in the world. Pratt reports this equates to about 509,987 FFE (40-foot equivalent units). Many in the transportation industry believe that Thermo King’s MAGNUM® reefer has raised the bar for the container industry. The MAGNUM® is the only container reefer on the market today that is capable of holding container temperatures to -35 degrees C. Research has shown that these lower temperatures extend the shelf-life of frozen fish and maintain a higher product quality by retarding the aging process.
Besides Maersk, other carriers such as Hamburg Süd, Hapag-Lloyd, and OOCL are employing MAGNUM® reefers. In fact, according to Thermo King, more than 20,000 MAGNUM® units have been sold just two years after the unit’s introduction.
Hamburg Süd Activity
A limited number of shippers are now beginning to adopt the new ultra-cold MAGNUM® technology because of its benefits.
“Until now, most of the cold chain involved in transport and storage of frozen seafood has been based on the traditional –18 to -20 F range. Seafood processors and exporters need to get better acquainted with the advantages of ultra-cold transport,” says Phil Donohue, director Corporate Commodities, Hamburg Süd North America. “Hamburg Süd has been taking part in educational seminars for shippers to better acquaint them with this new technology and its applications, especially for higher-end products like orange roughy and mussels.
Hamburg Süd’s main trade routes for seafood transportation to the United States are both coasts of South America, and New Zealand, with the bulk of shipments being delivered to East Coast ports including Philadelphia and New York.
“From South America, we are the leader in containerized transport of seafood, wit

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American Journal of Transportation