We are 360 Quality, an international shipping association with a keen focus on perishable products like fruits and vegetables. Being specialists for specialists, we firmly believe in the power of collaboration. Together, we cover the entire cold supply chain so we can maintain the quality of our cargo and our relationship with the people behind it. Specialised reefer transport is our game. Longer shelf life is our aim.
Helping us reach that aim is our 360-degree approach to quality: our job starts at the grower and ends in a store. Our approach is best summarised as FAST, DEDICATED and DIRECT. FAST: we keep short transit and terminal times in order to get perishables in the stores faster. DEDICATED: we are dedicated to build and share know-how about the perishables, the ships, the ports, the growing cycles, the legislation and much more. DIRECT: we keep in direct contact with the cargo in our care, checking product quality regularly.
In order to bring our approach to reality, we developed the ‘360 Quality Code’ for handling refrigerated cargoes in specialised reefer vessels. This Code lays down technical and management requirements for vessels, terminals and trades. All our members and affiliate members follow the Code and are thus 360Q certified. This certification is more-and-more required by those who need their perishables transport to be fast, direct and dedicated.
In other words
360 Quality is an association, consisting of different companies. Our goal is to ship products from port to port, without the quality of the product being compromised. To do this, we use big refrigerated ships, also called reefer ships.
The advantage of this association is that we have reliable partners. We call them the affiliate partners. These companies don’t own ships, but they also come in close contact with our products. They take care of the packing, the transport, the distribution, the loading and discharging of the ships. Thanks to these partners, we can make the travel time of the product considerably shorter. So thanks to them, the whole cold chain (as we call it) runs smoothly.
360 Quality is a true quality label. Every ship and every port with a 360 Quality Label is checked according to our checklists. We are convinced that these checkpoints are of utmost importance to maintain qualitative vessels and terminals. Checkpoints for the 360 Quality Code are introduced at these steps:
* Entry checkpoint (terminal-in)
* Loading checkpoint (vessel-in)
* Discharge checkpoint (vessel-out)
* Exit checkpoint (terminal-out)
Only ships and terminals that meet all of these requirements, are 360 Quality-approved.
On top of that, we also set up the 360 Quality Code. If this Code is followed correctly, the quality of the products can be assured.
Procedures follow a standardised protocol: The Code lays down the conditions for inspection and recording of damages. It also determines measures taken and communication to everyone involved in a uniform way by using properly structured data. The results from analysis of the data collected at the checkpoints help the terminals and the shipping lines to find out variations and introduce measures that will prevent the variation or reduce its effect.
Necessary feedback is also provided to shippers and other participants of the supply chain thus expanding the coverage of the 360 Quality Code to the packinghouses. Since all cargo being loaded into a truck for carriage to a distribution facility on the consumer side is checked, a receiver of cargo can easily find out the source of damage if it occurred between the terminal and the arrival at the distribution centre.
This makes the process transparent and creates a learning environment for all parties involved – from the shipper’s packinghouse to the receiver’s distribution centre.
Specialised reefer transport
Really special: Specialised reefer vessels
Specialised reefer vessels are purpose-built ships for carriage of cargo requiring temperature control, mainly foodstuffs. These versatile ships can carry unitised cargo under deck and are equipped with a high-capacity reefer plant to cool and/or freeze the cargo. They also have capacity to carry reefer containers on deck. They can offer a lot to customers who wish their cargo to be treated as first class passengers.
Number one: The size of today’s fruit market would not have been possible without the pioneering work of specialised reefer vessels and their decades of dedication and understanding of the reefer cargoes. This has provided them with years of experience and helped to develop the skills which keep them in spearheading all developments in their area of specialisation. Peak seasons with high volumes could never be mastered without them showing the flexibility they provide in fruit logistics. There simply would not be enough transportation space at affordable costs without such a flexible system. A reefer vessel consists of three to five cargo holds. In each hold there are three to four decks/levels, each of them providing compartments for 200 to 500 pallets. This makes up to 7,000 pallets per ship.
More than a plus: specialised reefer vessel transportation provides the lowest risk for damage to cargo. Each cooling section has a separate cooling and fresh air control system to establish and maintain the optimal conditions for the fruit transported. The size of the compartments provides ideal air distribution and thermodynamics for effective cooling down of the cargo. The air is distributed equally under the cargo. This not only helps in rapid cooling down of the cargo if it is not at the required temperature but also prevents uneven cooling of cargo and the so-called hot spots. It is difficult to achieve such conditions inside a container. This is why leading shippers of fruit prefer to carry their fruit in specialised reefer ships.
Additionally, the reefer vessels travel directly to the port of discharge, which helps increasing the shelf life. This means, they do not need hubs for transhipment which in reefer transportation is still a very big risk. Hubs are typical in systems used by container ships, where the cargo is moved from a smaller to a bigger ship for the long part of the journey.
Intensive care during the whole trip: the skilled crew monitors the condition of the cargo several times a day. This way, the cargo is under frequent control and damage is prevented.
Specialised ships go to specialised terminals: specialised reefer ships load and discharge their cargoes at terminals that have specialised in the handling of reefer cargoes. These terminals have very good knowledge about the care of reefer cargoes and the needs of the users of the terminals.
In short: effective cooling systems, shorter transited distance, faster delivery from dedicated terminals located close to land based distribution systems enable specialised reefer ships to deliver their cargo in time and with a smaller carbon footprint. To enhance the quality results even further by optimizing all steps of the transportation, 360 Quality Association was founded…
Something good for everybody
In addition to the various benefits for all participants in the supply chain, the work of the 360 Quality Association also adds several benefits to the general public such as:
Positive effects on the climate: Reduced carbon footprint and less food miles! Due to direct voyages and lower energy used for cooling down and maintaining cargo temperatures, the food miles and carbon footprint are reduced. A specialised reefer service picks up its perishable cargo and heads directly for its destination port, with very limited port calls only scheduled en route to add further cargo.
Lincoln University published a study comparing the environmental impact of the two main methods of shipping fresh produce. This study reveals that specialised reefer ships produce 27% less emissions of greenhouse gasses than container ships. You can download the press release here:
Positive social benefits: smaller carbon footprint and less food miles and reduced loss lead to a more responsible exploitation of crops and thus a better sustainability.