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Container Shipping & Trade

Container Shipping & Trade

Maersk Line technology saves millions for reefer cargo owners

Thu 29 Jun 2017 by Martyn Wingrove

Maersk Line technology saves millions for reefer cargo owners
Remote container monitoring alerts Maersk Line to incorrect temperature settings on refrigerated containers

Maersk Line has saved millions of dollars worth of container-refrigerated cargo by using remote container management and Daikin Reefer has developed its own atmosphere controls

In the first six months of this year, remote container monitoring (RCM) systems have alerted Maersk Line to more than 4,500 incorrect temperature settings on refrigerated containers.

The information enabled technicians to change the container temperature settings and save the cargo that collectively was worth several million dollars to owners. Maersk Line and its customers can track and monitor reefers around the world. They get regular updates on the reefer’s location, temperature and atmospheric conditions inside and the power status at all times during the voyage. This data enables Maersk Line to remotely manage the container and order local technicians to fix issues if required.

Maersk Line chief commercial officer Vincent Clerc commented: “Our customers can now monitor and make decisions about their supply chain as their cargo moves, as well as use the data to study and improve their entire supply chain.” He added that RCM raised “the total value proposition of refrigerated container trade”.

"Our customers can now monitor and make decisions about their supply chain as their cargo moves"

The RCM module includes a suite of sensors, a GPS positioning unit, a modem and a SIM card. These have been installed on all 270,000 of Maersk’s refrigerated containers. The module sends location, temperature, humidity and power status readings continuously over an L-band satellite link from 400 of Maersk Line’s owned and chartered ships.

Maersk Link has made the largest investment in remote monitoring of reefer containers so far. According to satellite operator Orbcomm, there are around 300,000 refrigerated containers fitted with remote telematics, out of the global fleet of approximately 1.5 million units. Orbcomm is the company behind the telematics device technology and related IP in the Maersk project


Daikin controlled atmosphere for containers

Apart from precise temperature control on its machines, Daikin Reefer has also developed Daikin Active Controlled Atmosphere that can control the atmospheric content inside the container by controlling the oxygen and CO2 level to delay the ripening process of valuable perishables.

According to Daikin Reefer director Katsuhiro Tetsuya, monitoring and control technology increases the reliability of the refrigerating system on reefer containers and reduces the risk of cargo damage.

“For the shippers, cargo quality and shelf life remain critical,” he explained. “The risk of damaged goods, plus the added reputational damage from a lack of reliability is high.” He said further advances in machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and data analytics are enabling real-time tracking of the position and temperature of reefer containers around the globe, increasing traceability, optimising maintenance, and preventing breakdowns.

“The risk of damaged goods, plus the added reputational damage from a lack of reliability is high”

“With the right data, such as temperature or equipment failure data, analysis can be conducted to predict potential reefer breakdown, enabling pre-emptive or scheduled maintenance to be efficiently carried out,” said Mr Tetsuya. “The resulting effect is a much more streamlined maintenance, breakdown, and repairs process, which reduces equipment downtime and minimises mistakes made through human error.”

An array of conditions, including temperature, humidity, and light, can be remotely monitored with small M2M devices that provide automated location data. “Real-time visibility can be improved to achieve greater control over complex container supply chain operations,” Mr Tetsuya explained.

He continued: “These new technologies have the potential to revolutionise the trouble shooting, repairs, and maintenance process by alleviating the potential for human error, thereby reducing reefer failures, cargo claims, and ultimately food waste.”

The sensors can determine whether something is wrong with the cargo, locate precisely which container it is in, alert the cargo owner, and identify what tools are needed to fix the issue.

“Cargo quality combined with failure data analysis enables technicians to adequately prepare for maintenance if something goes wrong with our reefers, before a container arrives in port,” said Mr Tetsuya. “This safeguards cargo and minimises claims.”

The drive towards digitalisation will continue so that reefer containers will increasingly become visible, smart, and connected devices. With Maersk Line behind this drive, it will eventually become the industry standard. Other container lines are expected to follow the lead to improve real-time visibility by installing remote monitoring and satellite transmission devices on refrigerated containers.


Daikin Active CA

CA technology slows down the ageing process that food and other sensitive perishable products undergo during transit. This allows them to be transported in better condition for longer periods of time and extend their shelf life.

Conventional passive CA relies on respiration, so you need to wait for the cargo to respirate to adjust the level of oxygen. Daikin’s Active CA removes the need to wait for the cargo to respirate to adjust the level of oxygen. Passive controlled atmosphere reduces oxygen density by only cargo respiration, or injects nitrogen gas that was produced separately into the reefer container. Daikin Active CA produces nitrogen rich gas with inbuilt equipment and supplies it into the reefer container to reduce oxygen density. This achieves the CA set point in half of the time of conventional passive CA meaning that it is now also viable for shorter voyages, such as intra-Asia and other regional trades.

The Daikin Active Controlled Atmosphere system is based on vacuum pressure swing adsorption (VPSA), an active atmosphere separation technology that is able to create the optimal controlled atmosphere very quickly. VPSA uses the mineral adsorbent zeolite to capture a large quantity of nitrogen from the air and transfer it into the reefer container, allowing oxygen levels to be quickly reduced, without the need for additional nitrogen gas injection.

During transit, the CA system continuously controls the air composition inside a reefer container. The technology uses cargo respiration to maintain the container’s carbon dioxide level, alongside an automatic ventilation control, making the unit simple and economical to run. The design was adapted from Daikin's oxygen concentrator, which was developed for use in the medical industry.

Using Active CA, it is now possible to transport leafy green vegetables and fresh fruits, which are generally considered difficult to transport under passive CA, due to their low respiration rates.


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