Photo: Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue, 2019. Gloucester Marine Terminal, Holt Logistics.
The advent of containerization and reefers have transformed the manner in which fruits are transported and stored. For instance, bananas, which are the world’s most traded fruit, are harvested in subtropical markets (e.g. Costa Rica, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia), boxed, palletized, and loaded into reefers. Reefers are then loaded into containerships that have the capabilities to supply power for the refrigeration units.
Before being boxed, bananas bunches are placed in plastic bags that will prevent humidity loss during transportation. A banana box weight around 16 kg (35 pounds) each. Then, they are palletized with 48 boxes per pallet (2x8x3) and loaded into reefers. Pallet size is designed to fit exactly in a reefer with two pallets per row over five rows. The size and positioning of the pallets within the reefer allows for the efficient circulation of refrigerated air.
The ideal temperature to transport bananas is around 13 degrees Celsius, which allows using the reefers to cool down shipments. Pallets are therefore loaded at ambient temperature and the reefer unit will cool down the shipment to the ‘banana’ (or ‘tropical’) temperature in a matter of about 5 days. For shipments requiring lower temperatures, such as chill (around 2 degrees Celsius), pre-cooling would be required as the reefer would not be able to bring the load to the required temperature range within a reasonable time frame.
At the port of destination, reefers are de-stuffed in refrigerated warehouses (see above photo at Gloucester Marine Terminal) with the pallets ready to be distributed by refrigerated trucks. The market value of bananas is about $1,500 per pallet.