From freight to plate

It has to be fast

When it comes to what seafood shippers are looking for in getting their products to market, “speed is absolutely the most important,” Jason Berry, Managing Director, Cargo, with Alaska Airlines, told Air Cargo World.

Seafood intended for export is “fished in the morning, boxed up that day, and sometimes a menu item the same night,” Berry said. Alaska Airlines Cargo handles much of the fresh seafood moving to the lower 48 out of Alaska via Anchorage Airport (ANC) and its eighteen other cargo operations in the state. The airline also does most of its own handling, “except for a few of our smaller Alaska markets, but those are handled by our vendor partners, so really an extension” of Alaska Air Cargo, Berry added. Alaska’s cargo teams are subsequently trained in cold-chain handling procedures by the carrier, using training Alaska Airlines developed with some of its larger seafood shippers, “making sure seafood is exposed to the elements as little as possible.”

Photo: Alaska Airlines

The carrier transports fresh seafood from Alaska using its large and growing fleet of passenger aircraft, as well as three 737-700 converted freighter aircraft – two of which Berry said operate heavy schedules in southeast Alaska this time of year. The carrier is simultaneously ramping up its passenger service with more than forty flights departing from ANC alone on a daily basis, nearly all of which will be carrying seafood.

The world’s largest freight forwarder, DHL Global Forwarding, also prioritizes speed and well-trained teams in its seafood exports, Charles Kaufmann, CEO, DGF North Asia South Pacific, said. The forwarder recently opened its newest Japanese office in Sapporo after a couple of years spent using an agent in the Hokkaido region to grow its portfolio of suppliers and exporters there. According to Kaufmann, Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport (CTS) has been adding widebody passenger flights as the tourism industry grows, allowing for more belly space for seafood exports from Hokkaido, and making possible quick delivery to customers.

Regarding fresh seafood exports from Japan, “the quality is a very high quality,” Kaufmann said. “Every importer is looking to get the best quality, and the other thing is how fast he can get it.” Flexibility is key here, because unlike many other types of perishable products, there isn’t a guarantee how much seafood a supplier will have available for export on any given day. “For fish, you go fishing and hopefully you get the quantity you need, and then that’s it – immediately, it has to leave and it’s flown out,” he said, adding, “we have to be very flexible, and we have very good partnerships with many airlines and already do business with other countries.”

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