In a new study, transportation consultant Seabury has found a pronounced shift is taking place from air cargo to ocean transport. New container technologies are contributing to the trend.
“A decade ago, tomatoes were just as likely to be transported by air as in a reefer container,” said Seabury’s Maritime Advisor Derek Brand, who has written the report. “Today, tomatoes are transported almost entirely in containers. The same holds true for numerous other perishable commodities.”
About 100,000 TEU per year is transported by ocean carriers instead of airplane. 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,” said Brand.
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. Air cargo should have grown at an average annual rate of 4.5%, but has instead grown at 2.6%.
“New technology in controlled atmosphere (CA) 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,” said Brand.
For Maersk Container Industry (MCI), the manufacturer of Star Cool CA, this is a positive development.
“As new trades open up our customers can improve their business. Add to that carbon emissions savings by almost a factor of 50 when you compare air and sea transport,” said Anders Gamborg Holm of MCI sales and marketing. “We have been on the market with CA for five years now. It’s reliable and affordable, and we predict it will make further inroads in the market.”
To view an executive summary of the Seabury analysis, click here.