For centuries, up until the mid-20th century, the transportation of frozen or chilled goods was relatively easy, and carried out inside barrels or chests filled with ice. The advent of packaged frozen goods and new methods of preserving the freshness of produce, however, caused the process to become much more complex, to the point where it is currently subject to a very specific form of cargo logistics in order to ensure that nothing unusual occurs.
This process, which often entails multiple forms of transportation, is colloquially known as the ‘cold chain’. It currently encompasses all existent forms of product haulage, from the usual road and air shipping to the increasingly old-fashioned water-bound transportation, in boats or ships. Regardless of which medium is being used to haul the goods, however, the norms ruling the transportation and cargo logistics are very much the same, in keeping with the desire for unification and streamlining that is at the heart of this process.
Transportation of frozen goods is usually done in specially prepared vehicles known as ‘reefers’. This name can refer to any means of transportation equipped with a refrigerated area where frozen goods can be stored, from a car or van to a ship or a plane. As far as the methods used to ensure that temperatures are kept level throughout all the stages of transportation from the source to the destination, these range from dry ice to special gel packs, liquid nitrogen, or insulating sheets commonly known as ‘quilts’. Generally, parties in charge of cargo logistics try to ensure that there is not much variation in the temperature the perishables are subjected to, so it is not uncommon to see the same method used at every stage of the process.
This is not, however, the only way in which cargo logistics companies are becoming involved in the shipment and transportation of perishable goods. Specialists have been coming up with increasingly numerous ways in which these entities can help speed up and streamline the process. The most prominent of these entails seizing control of particular, more time-sensitive ‘links’ in the ‘cold chain’, thereby ensuring a speedier distribution process, and consequently a higher degree of freshness by the time the products reach their destination.
Whatever the future holds, however, it cannot be denied that logistics for the transportation and distribution of frozen perishables is one of the most sensitive aspects of the field as a whole, and should be handled accordingly. The ‘cold chain’ needs careful supervision to make sure it is not broken.