The complexities of cold supply chain logistics - shipping chilled pork from Eastern Canada to Japan

Cold chain logistics add a whole level of complexity to multi-modal freight transport with the transport of meat products across continents and oceans to meet consumer demands across the globe.

The cold supply chain logistics session at the Asian Logistics and Maritime Conference (ALMC) in Hong Kong provided an insight into what goes into the process that allows consumers in Japan to enjoy fresh pork from Eastern Canada.

Setting the scene session moderator Robert Armstrong, president of the Chartered Institute of Logistics – North American Chapter said: “The cold supply chain is far more integrated than a normal supply chain and have to far more control.”

Food safety

With the transportation of goods such as meat understanding perishibility is a key factor and the cold supplu chain has a huge impact on public health around the world. This was echoed by Keith Reardon, svp consumer products supply chain growth for CN, who said: “It's people's lives that are at stake when you talk about food safety.”

Headquartered in east of Montreal, Canada in St-Hyacinthe Olymel is the country's third largest hog producer, but most of its exports head to Asia not just the other side of the country, but also across the Pacific.

The company's main export market for chilled pork is Japan – a six to seven day journey across Canada to Vancouver followed by a containership voyage across the transpacific. This is a total of 20 days providing for 35 days shelf life in Japan according to Alexandre Tarini vp of logistics for Olymel. Air freight is not an option due both to the volume shipped and the cost.

Time sensitive

The pork is shipped by rail across Canada in 53 foot containers. Timing is of great importance to ensure the product arrives in good condition and has adequate shelf life for customers in Japan. “We make sure we send the cargo at the proper time to meet the proper ship, everyday of shelf life is very important, if we miss that sailing add an addtitonal seven days of transport,” Reardon explained.


Ensuring that the pork arrives in Vancouver in good condition is a challenge not just because of the distances involved but also the Canada's weather that can vary from 35 degrees celcius in summer to minus 35 degress celcius in winter. Tarini explained that they have telematic monitoring of the container for temperature and airflow, and if necessary, they can stop the container mid-way in Winnipeg. Reardon of CN said: “We have selected vendors who are able to repair these units in all the towns our trains go through.”

According to Tarini over time issues with containers have reduced from 6% to less than 1%. “The risk of getting a bad product to the customer is almost absent. What we've done with companies like CN is relaibilty of service,” he said.

ALMC is part of Hong Kong Maritime Week.

Posted 21 November 2018

© Copyright 2019 Seatrade (UBM (UK) Ltd). Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Seatrade.

Marcus Hand

Editor, Seatrade Maritime News

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