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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Carriage of Temperature sensitive cargo by Air - Lufthansa Cargo

Dear (s)

Much of my articles have centered on movement of cargo, transportation, logistics and of course insurance of goods whilst in transit from place to place. In modern day, most of the cargo is by containers, generally expressed in TEU units – twenty foot equivalent unit – which is not an unit in exactitude, as it describes only the volumetric capacity and not the actual cargo or the weight of the cargo getting transported. However, this being a standard size measurement, is universally accepted for many including the port duty etc., The volume of cargo transportation is usually expressed in TEU, though there could be containers of different sizes.

Then there are cargo sensitive to temperature or that is required to be transported at controlled temperature. Refrigeration is the solution and refrigerated transport requires Unit which has means of refrigeration and needs a cold chain where the temperature can be monitored, controlled and maintained. There are goods which are perishable in nature – food stuffs and others such as flowers, plants, pharma products and chemical products. The equipment which can control the temperature has to operate in a wide range of ambient temperatures and under extremely variable weather conditions as they could lay exposed to sun, rain and shine, transported in different modes and different environments. There are also frozen goods, which require low temperature to be maintained.

In intermodal transportation, there are refrigerated containers known as reefers which contain an integral refrigeration unit – reefers require external power from electrical power points at a land based site, a containership or quay. When they are transported over the road placed on a trailer, reefers can be powered by diesel powered generators. Just as inside a car, air flows through the container from bottom to top – the warm air is drawn off from the inside of the container, cooled in the refrigeration unit and blown back into the container as cold air. So, adequate circulation needs to be ensured. Such containers should not be packed to the brim and in the upper area, adequate space should be left. Besides temperature regulation, integral units also allow controlled fresh air exchange – for the removal of metabolic products when transporting goods like fruits.

There is something known as Partlow recorder which records the return air temperature providing details of state of temperature inside the container in which cargo is placed. Data loggers are used to detect the temperature digitally and indicate them on display on control panel. The doors constitute the weak link in maintaining temperature and if the rubber door gaskets are old and worn out, maintenance could be a problem.

Whilst environmentalists would cry hoarse on global warming and drilling holes in to the ozone layer by utilizing more of these, the reefer containers have certainly allowed access to fresh produce irrespective of seasons. For extra information, these partlow recorders can log data for over 31 day period and if the voyage is above this period, charts would need to be replaced.

The simple question that comes to mind, why undergo so much of difficulty ? Try transporting goods by air, which are multiple times faster and air crafts being air conditioned ones, control of temperature would be much easier. The first impediment would be the costs of transportation and then the logistic of bigger volumes.
In air cargo, the terminology is not TEU or containers but ULD – unit load device. This ULD is a pallet or container used to load luggage, freight and mail on wide body aircraft. It allows a large quantity of cargo to be bundled into a single unit. As one can easily perceive the halting time of the aircraft needs to be kept to the minimum and fewer the units, the faster would be the loading with lesser effort. Each ULD would have its own packing – the cargo manifest – so that the contents can be easily tracked. Though it would be lot cooler inside an aircraft, it is subject to vagaries of very hot weather or unusually cold as it flies at very high altitudes.
Perishable and some types of cargo would require transportation in controlled temperatures – many cargo lines offer temperature controlled service for premium cargo at special rates and ensure seamless air transportation chain suitable for cargoes such as life saving drugs and high value perishable cargo.

Lufthansa Cargo is in news for its new Opticooler container which offers greater reliability – this opticooler keeps temperatures low using compressor technology requiring just electricity rather than dry ice. LC’s spokesperson stated that the market for carriage of temperature-sensitive cargo has been growing strongly even during the global economic melt down, which made LC expand to suit individual customer erequirements. They claim that the information records of temperature throughout the transport operation will be available. This opticooler has been developed jointly with the cargo equipment manufacturer Dokash. Their previous Ice cooler was dry ice operated; Uni coller was dry ice and heating. Opticooler has condensing and heating system without dry ice.

The outer atmosphere at various air ports could range from -30 to +40 degrees Celsius, the temperature in container need to be kept constant and fluctuations reduced to a marginal level in order to prevent any possible damages to the sensitive cargo.    The report states that Lufthansa Cargo completed the test phase with the opticooler in August, and the new containers are now ready for use on all routes in the cargo carrier's global network. Lufthansa Cargo ranks among the world’s leading cargo carriers. Lufthansa is the flag carrier of Germany – the name is a derivative from Luft (the German word for "air"), and Hansa (after Hanseatic League the powerful medieval trading group).

To conclude from Insurance perspective, the carriage is evidenced by contract of carriage called Airway Bill (AWB) generally in glossy paper (tough to read the conditions printed on its reverse). It is not a negotiable document. Now there is growing tendency to have e-AWB which is an electronic document. Once it is an E document, contract of carriage shall mean oral or written agreement between consignor and the carrier relating to the carriage.

From 2004, Montreal Convention came into being for Germany which has amended some of the terms of Warsaw Convention as amended by the Hague Protocol of 1955. The condition regarding the liability of the Carrier reads that the carrier shall compensate for damage caused by destruction, delay, loss or damage of cargo, but only if the event causing the damage occurred during the carriage by air. The carrier is not liable if it proves that the destruction, loss or damage of the cargo was caused by one or several of the following circumstances:
_ the special nature of the cargo or any inherent defect of that cargo,
_ defective packaging of the cargo performed by any person other than the
carrier or its servants or agents,
_ an act of war (including terrorist acts) or an armed conflict,
_ an act of public authority carried out in connection with the entry, exit or
transit of the cargo,_ force majeure, in particular acts of God.
Even where admitted, the liability is restricted to an amount of 19 Special Drawing Rights (SDR) per kilogramme. However, the limitations of liability in respect of total amounts do not apply if the consignor has made, at the time when the cargo was handed over, a special declaration of interest in delivery at destination and has paid the requested surcharge. In that case the carrier shall pay a compensation for destruction, loss, damage or delay up to the amount of the declared value, unless it proves that the sum is higher than the
consignor's actual interest in delivery at destination. All compensation claims are subject to proof of value.

Next comes the time limit : If a rightful claimant intends to assert claims for compensation due to damage, partial loss equalling damage or delay, the consignee must without undue delay inform the carrier by notification with sufficient description of the cargo concerned, the approximate time of damage and the details of the claim, in any event within 14 days (7 days within the scope of application of the Warsaw Convention of 1929) after acceptance of the cargo, and in the event of delay within 21 days (14 days within the scope of application of the Warsaw Convention of 1929) after the cargo was made available to the consignee.

If the consignee fails to comply with the notification period, any action against the carrier shall be excluded unless the latter fraudulently hindered the claimant to establish the facts to be notified or to issue the notification in due time.

Hope this article of mine was some interest and use to you. Do record your valuable feedback.

S Sampathkumar


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