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close this bookFood, Nutrition and Agriculture Review 15 : Food Safety and Trade (FAO, 1995, 72 p.)
close this folderPreventing losses and preserving quality in food cargoes
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPreventing cargo biodegradation
View the documentPackaging and transportation needs
View the documentQuality
View the documentDispute settlement
View the documentLoss prevention strategies

Packaging and transportation needs

Some products, such as grains, may be transported dry in bulk, while others, for instance, fish, may be conveyed wet in bulk in the deep holds of sea-going vessels. Tuna frozen at sea may be stacked up fish on fish in the refrigerated hold of a mother vessel, unprotected from handling, the surrounding fish or the handlers. Other perishable cargoes are packaged in units in cartons, bags, boxes or polyethylene or may be palletized before loading. Many such cartoned products are then dispatched in 20 - or 40-foot containers.

To protect the food, packaging has to be suitable for the purpose, the duration and the complexity of the storage and journey. Suitable packaging is more likely if the selling and buying parties make a contract before the product is transported. Much produce, however, is sold after manufacture and packaging to buyers who do not specify how it is to be protected en route to destination. This oversight can result in disputes when the product arrives.

A 20 - or 40-foot container provides considerable advantages over bulk transportation since the control over the conditions for perishable products is potentially greater, raising the total product security. A refrigerated or controlled-atmosphere container can carry cargo under pre-set conditions, and if loss of control occurs it may be limited to one unit, However, one container load is not as valuable as a hold full of material, so insurers may have less incentive to investigate damage claims for a single unit.

The duration of journeys can vary tremendously from a few days (as with a fresh chilled vegetable) to a period of months (as in the case of a block of frozen fish) (Figures 1 and 2). A perishable commodity may spend time at container terminals or in warehouses which may be owned and managed by different companies, each following instructions for carriage and passing the product to the next carrier or storage facility, Contractual and legal relationships determine the levels and limitations of responsibility for the commodity at any one time.

TABLE Examples of perishable cargoes



Controlled atmosphere


Ambient or air-conditioned storage

Fish and fish products: IQFa shrimps and prawns, surimi, farmed salmon, whole and fillets

Fish (on melting ice)

bananas, avocados





Some meats


Processed products in cans: fish, meat, vegetables, fruit

Vegetables: IQF asparagus, mushrooms

grapes, apples, pears, nectarines, plums



Fruit: IQF raspberries, blackberries

Fruit juices


Fish meal

Block frozen raspberries

Vegetables: asparagus, onions, garlic, salad crops, peas

Milk powders

Fermented fish and vegetables


a IQF = individually quick-frozen.

Stages in a simple journey - Diverses pes d’un trajet simple - Etapas de un viaje en un solo sentido