5th Cool Logistics Global conference

Perishable shippers back new intermodal service concepts

Three pillars of the global perishable industry – bananas, frozen chips and fresh flowers – all stand to gain from exploring integrated intermodal reefer transport chains across Europe. Speaking at the upcoming Cool Logistics Global conference in Rotterdam, 24-26 September, AgroFair, Aviko and FloraHolland will all present concrete examples of shipper- and retailer-driven modal shift, with potential far-reaching implications for future reefer service models.

Hans-Willem van der Waal, Managing Director of AgroFair, will present the results of tests to ship containerised bananas from Peru for European delivery by rail to Swiss retailer Migros. For many years, banana transport by rail has been limited by shipping companies unwilling to lose control over reefer boxes to inland operators, coupled with the difficulty of finding sufficiently lucrative return cargo. “Until now bananas are still being handled ‘conventionally’ with pallets being typically loaded into Interfrigo railcars in Zeebrugge and Bremerhaven,” van der Waal will say. As a result, fruit pallets undergo multiple handling stages, which can lead to damage and claims.

The new intermodal distribution concept is in fact the brainchild of Migros, one of the most forward thinking retailers in Europe, which is keen to exploit the potentially huge benefit of environmentally-friendly sourcing of produce from overseas. The project is being supported by AgroFair, Maersk Line, ERS Railways and the Port of Rotterdam. AgroFair, a pioneer in its own right, has been credited with initiating the first fair trade banana shipments into Europe.

More ambitiously even, Christo van der Meer, Operations Manager, Fresh Flower Solutions at FloraHolland, one of the world largest flower auctions, will be presenting the yet-to-be-launched Cool Train Spain project during this year’s conference. Shipping fresh flowers by rail from Rotterdam’s new Cool Port to Valencia in Spain pays tribute to considerable intermodal creativity and could create a very good business case for prospective rail operators interested to tap into the citrus fruit being exported back from Spain to the Netherlands. For many years this business has been in the hands of trucking companies, many of them domiciled in Valencia, for good reason dubbed as the trucking capital of Europe.

According to van der Meer, the Netherlands-Spain route represents one of the world’s largest fresh produce corridors with 1.5 million tonnes of fresh produce moving between the two countries. The project is backed by a number of Dutch companies, including one of the largest fruit and vegetable companies with close links to Dutch retailer Ahold and other logistics and packaging interests.

Rounding off the Dutch intermodal trio will be Frank Scholten, Transport Manage at Aviko BV, one of the four largest potato processing companies worldwide. Owned by Royal Cosun, Aviko increasingly exports chips and potato specialities to South America and Asia. Accessing these new markets using the best economic and ecological advantage offered by a combination of rail and/or barge has been the hallmark of success, as Scholten explains. “Keeping landed cost at the lowest possible level remains critical in this business,” he adds.

Fruit and vegetables have been the backbone of the Cool Logistics Global conference and remains the raison d’etre for shipping companies to attend this event year after year. With Maersk announcing its bombshell reefer rate increase at Cool Logistics 2012, it is worth remembering that without shippers taking a stand, carriers may as rumoured try to push for another increase this year.

With Francis Kint, CEO of the Fresh Produce Division at UNIVEG announcing that he will join the keynote session to discuss how the industry will adapt to new trade between emerging markets, a debate on service quality, reliability and choice is expected to draw a larger than ever attendance to the conference. Univeg is Europe’s largest fresh produce importer with primary production interests, notably in Latin America.

Covering two days of business sessions, a full day of operational and environmental debate, field trips to a FloraHolland flower auction and Maasvlakte 2 port development, plus two evening receptions, Cool Logistics Global once again brings together shippers, carriers, 3PLs, ports and terminals, technology providers and other key stakeholders to network in advance of annual contract negotiations.

The full programme and list of participating speakers and delegate companies can be viewed at www.coollogisticsconference.com

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