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Maersk Line has formally unveiled its remote container management (RCM) system for advanced monitoring of the line’s fleet of reefer containers, wherever they are in the world.

The project is detailed in The inside story on how to keep it cool, a new LongRead published by The Loadstar today.

The RCM project, which was five years in the making, saw the line’s entire fleet of 270,000 reefers equipped with a remote container device that utilises a 3G sim card and GPS unit, as well an antenna.

In addition, around 400 vessels – every one of its 270-owned and 130 long-term chartered containerships – have been equipped with a VSAT dome on the roof of the bridge, which receives data sent by a reefer’s antennae. This data is then transmitted to orbiting satellites and retransmitted to Maersk HQ in Copenhagen and back to the vessel.

Once the container is on land, it links with the local mobile phone network and transits data across that.

The RCM system means huge amounts of data on the condition of a reefer is now available to Maersk Line, giving it huge potential advances in equipment positioning, maintenance and repair, and leading to substantial cost savings in areas such as inspections.

For example, Maersk Line’s project head, Catja Rasmussen, told The Loadstar that the time required for pre-trip inspections (PTIs) had been reduced “from up to six hours to 12 minutes”, because so much data was available before the inspector even looked at the box.

Maersk’s head of reefer management, Shereen Zarkani, told The Loadstar: “The starting point for this project was to obtain visibility at a very granular level – knowing where each container is; including when it is en route to the port, on the sea, in the terminal, or at the terminal gates – and being able to aggregate all the bits and pieces of data.

“The data has always been there, but it has been difficult to bring it together. Now that we can do that; it is a game-changer,” she added.

Although the line has yet to formally unveil it as a commercial service to shippers of perishable cargo, the potential for hugely increased levels of cargo care is obvious.

Chayenne Wiskerke, is the managing director of Wiskerke Onions, the largest onion exporter in the Netherlands, with an annual volume of around 5,000 40ft boxes a year – much of which is transported to Africa, Asia and Latin America and which sees the boxes being transported through a wide variety of different climates.

“If you can keep the onions at the most optimal setting, then you have higher quality at the end destination, but you need to have the right data to make the best decisions, and that comes through monitoring the live flows,” she said.

The full report can be downloaded free for Loadstar readers here

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