When your reefer container arrives damaged, you immediately start enquiring what went wrong during transit. Common industry practice is to request (and pay for) information from the container provider or shipping lines’ temperature data logger. The logger provides the “exact” temperature and enviroment of the cargo along the route. Once receiving the data and confirming that indeed the container was within the defined temperature, a sigh of relief is usually heard at the corridor of the office – no one really wants to struggle with his shipper. You immediately assume that the problem was probably elsewhere.
But! Is that so?
Does the set point provided to you reflect approximately the temperature of your cargo?
Let us offer you five points to consider:
- Researches show that containers’ internal temperature could vary up to 20°C across the container’s various regions*;
- Container logs are often located at the exit point of the containers’ air circulation system. Put simply – the shipping line or container logger measures the location that would be closest to the requested set point. From this point on, as we go farther away from the cooling system, the temperature varies;
- Containers’ whereabouts on the ship such as being in a location that can be directly hit by sunlight impact the internal temperature;
- The most vulnerable container wall is sometimes not fully sealed, allowing air to enter the container. External temperature next to the door affects the containers’ internal temperature; and
- While reefer containers are designed to enable optimal air circulation, cargo arrangement inside the containers such as the method used to place pallets inside impacts the air system circulation’s effectiveness.
These variables raise doubts on the validity of the temperatures recorded by the containers’ data loggers, leaving exporters in the dark as to the real environment their products are exposed to. It is vital to address the danger of this dark spot because it impacts the quality assurance of pharmaceuticals, dairy, meat, beverages and agriculture produce that we all consume.
One way to shed some light on this dark spot is to measure your containers independently, and if possible, in the most vulnerable spot of the container. This enables you to be certain about what your most vulnerable pallet or box “feels like”.