More seafood than ever is being flown by air, setting new standards for speed
A tongue-in-cheek saying you’re likely to hear within months of joining the air cargo industry is that if cargo is flying, someone, somewhere has made a mistake. As a mode of transportation, air transport is more expensive than road, rail or ocean, for one important reason – it is, hands down, the fastest way to move cargo across long distances. Ocean freight, which can take months to transport cargo between North America and Asia, is sufficient when fulfilling monthly orders on a regular schedule, but if you’re a supplier whose merchandise is supposed to be in Hong Kong by Friday but it is still in California on Tuesday, the higher freight rates for air are simply the price of doing business.
There are a couple of exceptions to this rule, and by far the biggest one is perishable cargo, including pharmaceutical products, fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables, and meat products. All those categories have different requirements for shipping – from the precise temperatures at which they must be stored, to how they are packed and who is authorized to handle them – but the thing that ties almost all of them together is the high value of those commodities within a very short window of time before they are no longer suited for consumption. So, while some seafood, meat, fruits and vegetables can be frozen and shipped using slower modes, the most valuable products are shipped fresh, delivered fresh – sometimes across multiple continents – and consumed fresh at their final destination.
One of the most specialized requirements for products like fresh flowers and, particularly, seafood, is that only a few specific sources must fulfill the entire world’s demands for these products. Some of the major markets for seafood suppliers include Alaska in the United States, Norway in Europe and Japan in the Asia-Pacific region.
To support exports from these regions, and growing imports around the world and particularly to China thanks to the country’s growing middle class, air cargo carriers, forwarders and airports are turning to creative projects and hefty investments to meet soaring demand – and to keep the fish soaring, too.