By Tom Peters

Maintaining the quality of imported wine and beer is an absolute necessity for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC), and is one of the reasons NSLC relies on the cool supply chain through Port of Halifax. “Of the 890 containers last year with shipments of wine, beer and spirits, 197 or 22 per cent, were insulated and 196 were reefer containers,” said Beverley Ware, NSLC’s Communications Advisor. She said the insulated and reefer containers carry beer and wine from such countries as Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, South Africa, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia.

It is also interesting to note, she said, “these containers are used not just to keep products cool. We use them most from October to March to prevent product from freezing when it gets here.

It is not only wine and beer that benefit from the port’s cold chain infrastructure. Temperature-controlled cargo is a very important category of cargo for Port of Halifax,” said Halifax Port Authority’s Lane Farguson. “The agri-food and seafood export industries contribute significantly to the economic output of Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada.” He said a significant volume of these products move through the port and “Thanks to advancements in the cold storage supply chain, high-value food products including pork, beef, seafood, blueberries, potatoes as well as food-grade lentils and grains can be shipped anywhere in the world from Atlantic Canada,” he said.

Other high-value reefer cargo moving through the port includes fruits and vegetables from Europe and North Africa and frozen shrimp from Asia moving into inland markets like Montreal and Toronto via CN’s intermodal temperature controlled cargo service. “We are fortunate that our rail provider, CN, is an industry leader when it comes to the movement of temperature-sensitive cargo,” Farguson said.

“CargoCool is an important and growing business for CN,” said CN’s Patrick Waldron. “We continue to expand our CargoCool 53-foot fleet with additional units becoming available by the end of the year. CN is also upgrading the fleet for better monitoring of KPIs (key performance indicators) and mechanical issues and also testing new internal designs to improve air flow and further reduce the emissions of diesel engines as cargo cool containers flow in and out of Halifax,” he said.

CN’s CargoCool service is equipped with an advanced monitoring system that detects the slightest variation from the temperature designated for the cargo. Not all foods are shipped equally. Apples, for example, need to be shipped at -1 to +4 degrees Celsius and yams need to be shipped at 16 to 20 degrees Celsius. CN’s reefer containers are customizable to allow the carrier to adjust to each customer’s needs.

CN says shipping smarter also means making greener moves. CN’s CargoCool gensets can power up to 17 refrigerated containers at once compared to just one by truck, and rail emits four times less greenhouse gases than trucking.

Export container filled with Nova Scotia seafoods provide considerable direct and spinoff economic benefit to the economy of Nova Scotia, said Farguson. “This underscores two things – the importance of the seafood industry in Nova Scotia and the importance of having a convenient and efficient way of getting that product to international markets,” he said.

Currently, there are approximately 500 reefer plugs at each of the container terminals. The Port Authority is investing $70,000 to have an additional 50 plugs installed at the South End terminal operated by Halterm by mid-August with plans to invest in an additional 100 plugs this fall, Farguson said.