How an integrated cold chain solution and cutting-edge temperature management secured grape quality despite distances and long regulatory processes.
RIOblanco is a Chile-based producer and exporter of premium fresh fruit, primarily grapes. The 44-year-old company also operates as Terramara in Mexico.
Since 2018, Maersk has been RIOblanco’s partner in the ocean transport of its cold chain produce.
Perishable commodities such as grapes and other fruits need special handling, a temperature-controlled environment, and precise cargo movement.
However, Chilean grapes entering the United States have an additional requirement: fumigation and inspection by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
This slows down the cargo’s progress from the ports to the supermarket shelves, increasing risks to the quality of the grapes and adding to logistical costs such as detention and demurrage.
In this situation, it is the logistics partner’s task to ensure that regulatory requirements notwithstanding, the grapes get to stores in optimal condition, giving our customers peace of mind and the best returns for their produce.
The transport of 35 million boxes of Chilean grapes to North America in prime condition called for a holistic end-to-end approach that could also generate cost savings and favourable bottom lines for the customer.
To meet the challenge, a cross-functional logistics and transport solution was developed. It involved coordination and planning across Maersk teams and geographies.
The solution employed:
- Streamlined end-to-end cold chain management
- Optimisation of container flow and velocity
- Expedition of fumigation and regulatory processes at PhilaPort, Philadelphia
- A unique 3+1 temperature management technology
From RIOblanco’s vineyards, the grapes were trucked to a nearby facility where they were packed and loaded into Maersk’s state-of-the-art refrigerated containers.
In addition to maintaining a temperature-controlled environment, the containers were equipped with a remote container management (RCM) system that allows for real-time monitoring. Through Captain Peter™, Maersk’s proprietary digital visibility platform, the customer was able to track the temperature and humidity within the container, and its location on the road and in the ocean.
Meanwhile, Maersk’s regional cold chain teams managed container flow to ensure optimal use of resources at PhilaPort, including utilisation of the fumigation facility. This resulted in a well-timed, seamless and expedited flow of grapes.
The 3+1 temperature management technology
- What it does: It ensures product freshness and provides speed to market through temperature adjustments in the reefer containers.
- How it does it: The grapes travel in a pre-set temperature-controlled environment, managed by an automated process. During the voyage, the temperature within the container is thrice raised, with the final temperature increase occurring when the cargo arrives at the destination port.
- The advantage: This final adjustment ensures that the grapes are primed for fumigation, saving valuable time and boosting efficiency. The timing of this temperature adjustment is carefully synchronised with the destuffing of the pallets to protect the quality of the grapes.
At PhilaPort, fumigation and USDA inspections were held at dedicated cold treatment facilities. This expedited process for Chilean grapes ensured that shipments weren’t delayed or rejected on arrival, providing greater speed to market. Additionally, the quick movement of the refrigerated containers through the terminal helped reduce port and terminal charges.
Our collaborative, fully-integrated cold chain management from start to finish created a predictable infrastructure for RIOblanco’s grapes.
This process helped:
- Maximise the market value of the grapes
- Increase the shelf-life of the produce
- Ensure our customers achieved healthy margins
- Improve confidence and cost transparency
- Achieve vastly improved transit times
A key strength of ours is the ability to develop strong commercial relationships with our customers. Maersk’s reliable compliance process at destination supports these relationships. One of the formulas that has given us great results with our customers is the ability to achieve what was agreed upon in a timely manner. Maersk’s integrated operations give us a new tool to meet our goals each season.
Maersk is an important partner for our operations and logistics chain. Their quick responses on every issue and good service attitude were apparent as they got involved with all the challenges we faced in one of the worst Chilean grape seasons. Nowadays, we need to work with companies like Maersk that understand and share in our business efforts.
We transported 136 forty feet equivalents (FFEs) of grape cargo in 2022, moving the produce from Chile to Philadelphia. Crucially, we expedited the fumigation and inspection processes mandated by the US government.
In the 2023 season, Maersk moved over 240 FFEs for RIOblanco – a near-doubling of volume over the previous year. This is testament to the customer’s confidence in our partnership.
The end-to-end operation renewed RIOblanco's confidence in Maersk’s capabilities. The partnership, which was already on firm ground, looks set to advance to a higher plane, with greater cargo volumes in the pipeline.
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