From freight to plate

Airports beefing up the seafood cold-chain

With so many flights laden with salmon, geoduck and sea urchin departing airports across the world, airports are trying to move quickly to improve facilities and keep seafood as fresh as possible on its way to customers.

Ted Stevens Anchorage Airport (ANC) sees the largest share of seafood exports of any airport in Alaska, with 180 freighter aircraft departing the airport on a typical day, exporting seafood across the world. Currently, ANC’s cargo facilities include a seafood processing plant for which the airport has largely taken on the lease, and some of the airport’s other cargo facilities also have cold storage, but the airport is hoping to increase that capacity, Airport Manager Jim Szczesniak said.

“We are working with a developer right now, looking to put in an on-airport cargo warehouse with a lot of cold-chain storage potential to be able to better process seafood out of Alaska, plus perishables running through the airport now – particularly goods from Latin America moving to Asia, such as fruits, vegetables and Chilean salmon,” Szczesniak said. “An additional facility particularly designed to handle those perishables is going to be a great addition,” he added, explaining that based on the facility’s current stage of development, it will likely be between two and three years before such a facility is operational.

ANC is also home to some creative projects aimed at increasing perishable exports. One preparing to enter operations as of press time is Pilot Freight Services’ live crab project. Bill Raine, Pilot’s perishables air manager, said the forwarder is in its final stages of certifying live water tanks at ANC capable of storing up to 15,000 lbs of live king or Dungeness crab before it is “boxed up and ready to go overseas” to Shanghai or Hong Kong, Raine said.

Across the continent and the Atlantic Ocean, Oslo Airport (OSL) also sees massive seafood exports that require significantly more infrastructure support than currently exists at the airport. Earlier this year, the airport announced the cancellation of a planned seafood center that had been slated for construction in partnership with ground handler Worldwide Flight Services (WFS), but Martin Langaas, cargo director for Oslo Airport’s state-owned operator Avinor AS, said that Avinor is still “very confident this capacity will come online.”

According to Langaas, the capacity is still greatly needed out of OSL, where he said over the past two years, international cargo traffic ex-OSL has increased by 37%, all from growth in seafood exports. The canceled Memorandum of Understanding between Avinor and WFS was related to new designs that were challenging to implement under the original MoU, which Avinor moved to cancel “to allow airport handlers to come up with a solution themselves.”

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