Global trends in perishable shipping
Shipments necessitating air cargo transport require speed, agility, and a certain finesse for handling. That makes this portion of the logistics industry particularly suitable for goods such as valuables, tech components and life-saving pharmaceuticals. Indeed, this is often what the air cargo industry is known for. However, while they may not always be top of mind, products commonly referred to as “perishables” have a discernible impact on the industry.
True to their name, perishables have a limited shelf life. Foodstuffs usually have a strict expiration date, and are susceptible to external conditions such as weather and temperature. Along with plants and flowers, they require specialized transportation methods to ensure fresh, intact and on-time arrival. So from a supply chain perspective, how can we ensure that these products remain protected and safe throughout their sometimes-lengthy journeys?
Temperature Control – and a safe journey
For many perishable shipments, temperature control is critical. To ensure this, different packaging options and supplementary features are available. When goods are first being prepared for transport, thermal wraps and blankets can help mitigate the impact of varying climates – both cool and warm. Next, when shipments arrive at a warehouse, it is critical that cool storage options exist, directly aligned with a shipment’s individual requirements. Next, short transportation times between the warehouse and tarmac are crucial. When loading a product onto an aircraft, it should have spent minimal time exposed to the elements on the ground outside. Doing so mitigates the effect of adverse conditions, such as heat, exposure to sunlight, or precipitation. Thus, fast transportation times on the ground can greatly reduce the effects of a hot summer’s day (or a cold winter one) and help ensure a product’s intact arrival and readiness for distribution and consumption.
As with any commodity, shipping perishables bring its own set of challenges from the import/export perspective. Foodstuffs and plants typically require special declarations and certifications to ensure full compliance with a country’s regulations. Such requirements expedite the shipping process and ensure that there is no delay upon delivery. Reducing any potential issues with customs and other authorities, such as the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Fish and Wildlife in the U.S., is critical in ensuring that products reach their customers on time.
From where do perishables originate? The answer to this question varies greatly by region. Within an intercontinental network like that of Swiss WorldCargo, each region and specific location has its own specializations. In California, for instance, Los Angeles is an important gateway for seasonal commodities like asparagus and berries, among different types of fruits and vegetables. Buenos Aires is known for its year-round export of meat and seasonal export of berries, while pineapples from the Dominican Republic are shipped around the world all year long.
Thanks to Interline agreements, or the cooperation between different air cargo carriers, carrying perishables to a broad range of worldwide destinations has never been easier. For instance, carrier A may not fly all the way to a certain destination, but carrier B may. Thus, carrier A only ships to a transit point, after which carrier B finishes the delivery. Miami, for instance, frequently acts as a transit point for freight to and from nearby countries in Central and South America. This cooperation opens the doors to shipping beyond the limitations of a particular carrier’s route network, to a variety of specific, perhaps smaller markets.
Finally, taking peak shipping times into consideration remains important in an airline’s capacity management process. “Perishables season” in South America begins in November and generally runs through March. During the European and North American Winter, consumers rely on the services of the airfreight industry for access to the many types of produce grown in these markets, for which they have developed a year-round appetite. This pattern aligns with farming production, especially in fall and spring, when the harvest of new fruits and vegetables begins globally.
At Swiss WorldCargo, we benefit from a well-rounded network, which allows us to ship to far-reaching places around the globe. In doing so, we also serve a number of key markets from which we export a variety of perishable products. In the Americas alone, these include Punta Cana, Bogota*, Lima*, Quito*, San Jose, Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. Soon, we will also open our Cancun station to exports – which will provide access to a number of perishable exports like fruit, vegetables and fish from various parts of Mexico. Throughout the rest of the world, we export from diverse perishable markets in Europe, Asia and Africa.
In our business, we want to ensure that food, flowers, and other types of perishables shipped around the world are ready to satisfy and charm their customers in a variety of regions. Safe delivery is not only part of our customer promise, but can make all the difference in someone’s day: It means that restaurants receive their menu items in time, or that Valentine’s Day flowers arrive fresh and on time to delight loved ones.