Maersk Line is rapidly expanding its refrigerated cargo capabilities in India, a move that can lower transportation costs and shorten transit times for importers and exporters in the emerging market.
Armed with its sophisticated remote container management (RCM) technology for reefer movement, the world’s largest container line recently shipped a large export consignment of home-grown mangoes from Nhava Sheva at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, India’s busiest container harbor, to Felixstowe in the United Kingdom.
“Indian mangoes attract a high demand and a good price in European markets. Maersk stepped in to ensure that there is uninterrupted and seamless trade by supporting this shipment by sea in contrast to the air shipment, which is the norm in the industry,” the carrier said. “With this innovative offering, Maersk has opened new possibilities in shipping perishable goods which otherwise required faster, yet more expensive, air freight solutions.”
Maersk said the RCM-enabled containerized service offers a competitive transport alternative for Indian mango exporters hit hard by spiraling air freight costs.
“With the difficulties in air freight in the current scenario, approximately 200 metric tons of air exports of fruits and other perishables are being impacted every week, leading to a huge loss of produce,” Steve Felder, Maersk’s managing director for South Asia, said.
Felder also said a spurt in demand for Indian mangoes in European markets provided the company with a good opportunity to demonstrate its refrigerated cargo handling prowess and nurture closer relationships with related industry bodies, especially the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA).
“We believe that this successful project will further open doors for trade of more premium commodities,” he said.
That sentiment was echoed by Anand Shejwal, managing director of Bombay Exports, Maersk’s maiden mango fruit shipper.
“With Maersk’s RCM and [controlled atmosphere] offerings, which provide a controlled environment for the products, we were confident to execute this shipment as it provided us with complete visibility throughout the transit until being delivered to our customer,” Shejwal said in a statement. “Having received equally positive feedback from the importer, this trial has encouraged us to pursue further such opportunities in reefer trade.”
Maersk commands approximately 20 percent of India’s containerized transportation. Besides end-to-end cold chain logistics service expansion, the Maersk-A.P. Møller Group has accelerated investments in landside infrastructure development in the country in recent years to tap into booming reefer shipments.
The group currently has two dedicated reefer cargo storage centers at Chennai and Mumbai, in addition to a slew of “multi-product” container freight stations across the country.
Buoyant economic conditions in India, combined with a burgeoning middle class, are expected to heat up demand for perishable products, but the country needs to develop adequate facilities for food processing and cold storage to position itself well. Although there's a long way to go, the government’s multifaceted SagarMala port-led development program — involving an estimated $180 billion investment — is seen as a panacea for many of the things ailing India’s trade development efforts.