UK P&I Club says that it has seen an increase in refrigerated cargo claims for fresh fruit being shipped from South America to the United States due to cold treatment failure. George Radu, Claims Executive at Thomas Miller Americas, comments on this increase and offers prevention solutions.
The process of cargo cold treatment is a more efficient way to exterminate fruit insects than fumigation, as it maintains a sufficient low temperature for a pre-determined period, in order to exterminate insects and larvae in perishable cargo. The period and temperature required are defined in protocols established by the relevant authorities of the importing countries.
“Cold treatment failure delays the arrival of the cargo to the US, and excessive delays in the transit time result in the fruit becoming unmarketable or being sold at a much lower price.”
To prevent cold treatment failure, Mr Radu outlines the below procedures that need to be carried out by the shipper:
– Calibrate all air and pulp temperature sensors in a clean ice water slurry mixture that is 0C (32 F )
– Fruit intended for in transit cold treatment must be precooled to the temperature at which the fruit will be treated prior to beginning treatment. If pulp temperatures are .28C ( 0.5 F) or more above the temperature at which the fruit will be treated, the pallet will remain for further precooling
– Each container compartment must contain only one type of fruit and loaded in one type of carton
– Load fruit directly from the precooling area so fruit temperatures do not rise significantly after loading and during transfer of the container to the ship
– Open the cartons in which the sensors will be located and insert the sensors into the fruit. The tip of the sensor must not extend through the fruit
Regarding treatment requirements, Mr Radu comments suggests that when monitoring cargo, temperatures must be recorded at intervals no longer than one hour apart, and gaps of longer than one hour could cause a treatment failure.
“Fruit pulp temperatures must be maintained at the temperature specified in the treatment schedule with no more than a 0.39C (0.7 F) variation in temperature between two consecutive hourly readings. Failure to comply could result in treatment failure”.
Before the ship arrives at port, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will acquire the clearance officer’s copy of the calibration documents from the ship’s officer. USDA and the ship’s officer will retrieve the temperature printout and review the readings.
“The authorised official will then release the shipment for carriage to the United States if all requirements have been met. However, if irregularities are not consistent with treatment requirements, the shipment will be held for further evaluation.”
Mr Radu also reminds operators that the precooling and loading of the sensors are carried out at the shipper’s premises.
“If the refrigeration unit is set at the correct temperature and there are temperature irregularities shortly after receipt by the carrier at the load terminal, then it can be concluded that the cold treatment failure is due to the shipper’s lack of precooling or calibrating the sensors. All liability for claims under these circumstances can be denied by the carrier.”