In Europa is kreeft een dure delicatesse. De levende schaaldieren hebben constante koeling nodig van de kust van Nova Scotia tot aan keukens in Londen, Parijs of Frankfurt. Door de lucht worden er 10 tot 20 kreeften per doos volgestouwd met ijs packs. De nieuwe zeecontainer genaamd Aquaviva kan bijna 10.000 levende kreeften vervoeren.
Elke kreeft heeft zijn eigen VIP hokje gevuld met zeewater, gekoeld, gefilterd en gecontroleerd op zuurstof. "Het is een meer natuurlijke omgeving. De kreeften worden apart verpakt, zodat ze elkaar niet bijten, en poten er niet af vallen.", zegt Danielle Westerweel, marketing hoofd van Krijn Verwijs Yerseke, een 136-jaar- oude Zeeuwse vishandelaar. "De kwaliteit is veel beter dan luchtvracht."
The effort is an example of a trend in which carriers such as CMA, Germany’s Hapag-Lloyd, and market leader A.P. Moeller-Maersk are trying to bolster margins with specialized containers designed to move perishable or fragile goods. The companies need to court new customers as an oversupply of vessels has sent freight prices down by two-thirds in the past four years, to about $500 per container shipped from China to Europe—barely enough to cover handling, fuel, and terminal fees. The carriers are looking to expand the use of refrigerated containers and making their boxes more intelligent, allowing them to communicate with port operators, truckers, warehouse managers, and companies whose goods are being shipped. “The industry is badly in need of beefing up the demand side at a time when demand for standard goods is scarcely rising,” says Peter Sand, an analyst at Bimco, a shipping trade association.
Maersk has equipped cooling containers for another niche traditionally served by airlines: the $500 million market for Kenyan roses shipped to Europe. The containers can be driven directly to farms, where the flowers are loaded in, cooled to just above freezing, and ventilated to limit fungus. They can keep the roses fresh for 25 days without water while cutting transportation costs by as much as 70 percent, Maersk says.
Hamburg Süd Group is working to extend the shelf life of produce in containers with controlled levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide. That would open distant markets to Latin American fruit and allow importers to hold produce in containers if they expect prices to rise. And Hapag has 10,000 controlled-atmosphere boxes that can maintain constant temperatures for shipping blood plasma, vaccines, and other sensitive pharmaceutical products. Freight forwarders say such containers cost at least double the standard shipping rate, and so-called superfreezers for goods such as sashimi-grade tuna or vaccines used to fight the recent Ebola epidemic can cost as much as $15,000. “The challenge is the shift away from standard products toward specialization,” says Niklas Ohling, who oversees container routing at Hapag.