MSC Valetta Photo 186848612 © Liorpt
© Liorpt

Cold supply chains need to develop better decision-making through improved communications and data.

In a recent paper, reefer lessor SeaCube said between 7% and 15% of food transported in reefer containers was inedible by the time it reached its destination.

Greg Tuthill, chief commercial officer at SeaCube, argued that a fluid cold supply chain was critical to feeding the world.

Moreover, with the market set to grow at 5% a year through to 2025, a more efficient cold supply chain would cut costs as well as help to make up for shortfalls caused by economic shocks like the war in Ukraine.

Ukraine produces a significant level of the world’s grain and oils and, following the invasion by Russia, another large grain producer, there has been an increased shortages in food supplies to parts of the world, notably parts of the Middle East and Africa.

However, an expert reefer business source told The Laodstar the losses could be mitigated by the introduction of new technology and better communications between the stakeholders in the cold chain.

The source pointed to the proliferation of the latest generation of ships that include up to 2,000 reefer plugs. Those containers could be unplugged for discharge and remain unplugged until the container reaches its position in the terminal storage area.

“The sheer size of these ships and the limited number of crew means reefer boxes have longer plug-in, plug-out times,” said the source, which could affect the produce within the container.

And better communications could help where a containerload of fruit, such as bananas, has suffered downtime that has affected the fruit; armed with that knowledge, a customer could decide to send this containerload for processing to make smoothies, for example, while another container load of fresher bananas could be directed to the retailer for sale.

“This kind of data and planning information if properly communicated could improve on the situation regarding expensive food losses,” explained the source.

Mr Tuthill wants to see containers fitted with telematic devices which, he said, “provide real-time visibility of its [the container’s] location and contents”

He added: “Telematics also provide preventive measures using algorithms that recognise failures before they happen, notification of erratic driver behaviour, potential theft and safety issues.”

Moreover, with the increased focus on decarbonisation, efficiency can also be improved through more efficient use of energy on board ships and in terminals.

With the outsourcing of food supply chains there is a critical need to cut waste and move food rapidly through supply chains to meet the needs of a growing global population, says Mr Tuthill.

He added there would be a compound growth rate of over 21% for telematics in the shipping industry up to 2026, a view borne out by the number of major containership operators that are fitting their container fleets with internet-connected devices.

“This stat is a strong statement about the supply chain industry’s commitment to investing in technology to address critical cold chain issues,” said Mr Tuthill.

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