News bulletins and reports may have us believing that the world is disconnected.
The 11th Cool Logistics Global conference in Valencia, held from 17 to 19 September, set out to prove that, at least in terms of the cold chain and perishable logistics, this impression may need a bit more nuance.
“The availability of new technology, growth of cross border e-commerce, shipping industry fundamentals and increased consumer consciousness about waste, ethics, provenance, social and environmental impact are converging to push everyone to tackle endemic inefficiencies in international reefer container supply chains from all angles, “ says Alex von Stempel, managing director of Cool Logistics Resources. “And today’s intelligent reefer boxes will tell you that they – like the mega container vessels plying the oceans – cannot hang around empty for too long.”
Professor Alfred Cheung, founder of Japan China Food Republic and Mark Buhl with his colleague Ryan Clark at DataHarvest opened the pre-conference Cool Logistics Workshop and stretched the imagination on how the internet of things (IoT) and allied digital technologies like blockchain are conquering one field of application after another, in an ‘algorithmic blood-rush to the brain’ spanning food production, e-commerce and reefer containerisation in one fell swoop.
Some people may wonder what e-commerce, the cold chain and perishable logistics have in common, especially in the context of cross-border trade. However, food is one of the fastest growing areas of e-commerce – even though most of it is currently limited to a 30-mile radius.
China and Asia represent huge opportunities for food e-commerce and Cool Logistics recently took part in the debates at the first Cold Chain Summit during the 2019 International Cross-border E-Commerce Exhibition (ICEE).
But is there an argument to be made regarding the global aspect of the cold chain? Is there an underlying desire for cross-continent food e-commerce? Yes, is the short answer, because the underlying fundamentals of global perishable logistics remain intact, as on the third day of the conference, Robert Sappio, CEO of leading reefer container lessor SeaCube, stressed, “The rise of the middle class and the rise in world population in general remains one of the key drivers of reefer containerisation,” he said.
He and others believe this underlying fundamental may mean that the upcoming International Maritime Organisation (IMO) 2020 low sulphur fuel rules for shipping will not act as hammer blow for reefer box shippers and smaller reefer logistics specialists, as many have suggested. It has also been argued that the current shortage of reefer boxes may not last into Q1 2020 as there is currently “a lot of pent up demand.” Sebastian Cameron, director of Generation Investment Management tackled one of the biggest global challenge of all: the need to decarbonise capital. Cameron presented a new report on sustainable trends and highlighted some of the environmental steps that will need to be made to combat waste in both food production and distribution.
Steve Alaerts of food logistics service provider foodcareplus asked, “But who actually controls (or buys) the freight?” Alaerts agrees with Ole Schack Petersen, COO of LCL Logistics that “ocean carriers do not hold all the cards.”
Cool Logistics Global will seek to balance out views between the large reefer container operators, including Maersk, MSC and CMA CGM, and the larger and smaller perishable logistics providers, in a series of sessions and debates over three days in Valencia. An entire session was dedicated to Cool Rail, which detailed a modern approach to perishable supply chain intermodal integration with Fred Lessing, manager International Flows: Euro Pool System, Mar Chao Lopez, commercial director, Port of Valencia and Anne Saris, business manager: Agrofood and Distribution Containers, Breakbulk and Logistics, Port of Rotterdam.
Throughout the event there was ample opportunity for fresh produce shippers to air their views as in the opening session featuring Francesca Hopkins, head of Logistics at Jupiter Group, with production facilities in several countries including South Africa, the UK and the Netherlands and Juan Puchades, general manager of Bollo, a Spanish melon producer.
Indeed, how producers are becoming increasingly empowered to by-pass the traditional importer base were the subject of Genevieve Leveille, CEO of AgriLedger, who proved that Haitian mango farmers might be able to determine and directly secure payments from US importers.
On the final session of the conference Franklin Ginus, chief mission officer of start-up BeFrank, analysed how crippling logistics costs are putting fair trade bananas at a distinct disadvantage compared with more established banana producers in Latin America.
As global perishables logistics, shipping and reefer transport face change on virtually every front, including disruptive technology, the 11th Cool Logistics Global offered a unique platform for all the stakeholders – including brand new entrants – to debate the issues, and walk away with fresh insights.