Cold Chain Spotlight – The Intra-Med Reefer Trade
Amos Aloni - ZIM Intra-Med Line Manager
It’s safe to say that refrigerated shipping has always been the backbone of global trade. The world will never stop demanding food products or medicine, which is why the refrigerated sector simply doesn’t have the luxury of down time.
Reefers hold a special place in the Intra-Mediterranean trade, which is among the world’s busiest waterways, with an extensive reefer operation carrying fruits, vegetables, and perishables to multiple local destinations. The trade consists of the top exporting countries including Spain, Israel, Italy, Egypt, and Turkey with primary destinations in the Black Sea, the Western Mediterranean and even Northern Europe.
There are many facets to getting the logistics just right for the cold chain – from packaging and tight schedules to regulatory compliance and maintaining optimal temperatures throughout the cargo’s journey. The refrigerated cargo industry relies on a combination of volume, consistency, and timely deliveries, making it one of the most globalized in the world in terms of its operational abilities.
So, what should carriers keep in mind while navigating through this shifting landscape?
Peak season is always around the corner
The refrigerated sector consists of different commodities with seasonal demands. Each product is unique and requires specialized handling to maintain its integrity along the cold chain. These products aren’t like electronic items or clothes that can be stored on shelves for months. Fruits, dairy, and vegetables can deteriorate within days, and leaving them unattended could increase complexity and break the cycle.
For ZIM’s Intra-Med trade, providing the ultimate market products is at the highest priority. Amos Aloni explains, “When we focus on a particular reefer commodity, volume requirements and deadlines given by the customer are essential aspects that we must consider beforehand.”
Accuracy is key
Knowing what the next season will bring is always an ongoing question in the world of cold chain. With global supply chain delays making headlines throughout 2021, we’ve seen how things can change in a heartbeat, which is why carriers must build the best possible forecasts and remain responsive to real-time changes in order to remain in line with the dynamics of the season.
In some cases, the season can change faster than expected, and may bring about certain challenges for the operation, such as dealing with tighter schedules and the need to modify container capacity to reach sudden growing demands of customers. This calls for an exceptional ability to read the market, adapt quickly and carry out the proper execution plan to streamline the complete cold chain process.
One such example is that traditionally, ZIM has always provided services for Egypt’s grape season to the Adriatic. As the season arrives, customers usually prefer to enter their containers on a particular day of the week, just before the cargo is transferred to their designated temperature-controlled storage units, and directly put on the shelves by the end of the same week. Amos Aloni explains how ZIM increased efforts to maximize the compliance with customer’s needs and the shelf life of the cargo:
“Our end of the week arrival means customers can stuff their containers with all the products collected up to the same day – a clear advantage for maximizing their container capacity.”
A birds’-eye view of the operation
The cold chain doesn’t begin with the vessel’s arrival, nor does it end when it reaches its final destination. In fact, each vessel holds a specific route that serves an entire network. This involves planning and identifying the most beneficial schedule in terms of the available cargo capacity, the number of vessels that must be employed, and managing the exact return for their next round.
ZIM’s Intra-Med trade places great importance on the inseparable logistics aspect of the cold chain. Volumes may vary certain weeks, and while sometimes predicting what comes next is a challenge, it’s important to effectively plan for situations in which a customer requiring additional cargo space, will always be able to get their desired equipment in place, and on time.