Better containers helps air cargo become sea freight: Seabury

Study asserts that modal shift accounts for 5.4 million tonnes of perishable cargo year since 2000

Better containers helps air cargo become sea freight: Seabury
Report says perishables are shifting to sea freight


A new study has given added impetus to discussion around air freight’s migration to shipping.

International shipping consultancy Seabury finds the shift strong, saying container technology developments contribute to the trend.

"A decade ago, tomatoes were just as likely to be transported by air as in a reefer container," Seabury's Maritime Advisor Derek Brand, who has authored the report, says.

"Today, tomatoes are transported almost entirely in containers.

"The same holds true for numerous other perishable commodities."

About 100,000 teu (20-foot equivalent container units) per year is transported by ocean carriers instead of being air cargo.

The shift is particularly pronounced in certain perishable commodities such as tomatoes, capsicum, fresh fish, lettuce and pineapples, but not only perishables.

"The volumes that have shifted to ocean transport are significant for the air cargo industry," Brand says.

If there had been no mode shift since the year 2000, 5.4 million tonnes of cargo would still be transported by air rather than ocean, the study notes.

Air cargo should have grown at an average annual rate of 4.5 per cent, but has instead grown at 2.6 per cent.

"New technology in controlled atmosphere containers, such as Star Cool CA, has the potential to further increase the trend. CA's ability to slow down the ripening process opens up ocean transport as a viable alternative to air cargo on some of the longer trade routes," Brand says.

The study, which is backed by Maersk Container Industry, can be found here.

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