August 26, 2023

Running on Ice: Panama Canal the latest wrench in the supply chain


Hello, and welcome to the coolest community in freight! Here you’ll find the latest information on warehouse news, tech developments and all things reefer madness-related. I’m your controller of the thermostat, Mary O’Connell. Thanks for having me!

All thawed out

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The Midwest gets hit with “corn sweat” levels of oppressive humidity, two-thirds of the country is in a massive heat wave, and the Panama Canal has decided to join the fun. The Panama Canal Authority has reduced the maximum ship weight allowed through the canal, and it has started limiting the number of ships that can go through the canal in one day.

Not only is that super bad for dry goods and those Halloween costumes and Christmas decor coming into the country, it’s also problematic for the temperature-controlled freight on the ships. Shippers that have calculated dry ice for a set number of days run the risk of products spoiling before arrival as a result of delays. The beginning of August backed up 160 vessels and delayed some ships by as much as 21 days.

All these delays are temporary but could become part of the new normal for the end of summer. The reason for the delays: drought. Rainfall in the area is 30%-50% below normal levels, and next year is expected to be even drier. That combined with higher-than-normal temperatures has increased the evaporation from Gatun Lake, which serves as a reservoir that helps ships through the canal.

“Anyone shipping product around the world should be paying attention to possible disruptions due to climate change,” Brian Bourke, global chief commercial officer at SEKO Logistics, said in a Food Market article. “The Panama Canal is just the latest example.”

Temperature Checks

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

More refrigerated space is coming to Pennsylvania. Americold hopes to expand its Upper Macungie Township location by a casual 332,240 square feet. This really small expansion will add considerable traffic to the area, which is why the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, the local body that reviews traffic flow, is evaluating the proposed 8-acre improvement plan. Once the neighbors are assured there are minimal impacts to them, the expansion can begin and Americold can officially add to its 1.5 billion cubic feet of refrigerated space.

VS Services officially has a Food and Drug Administration-approved warehouse in Kansas City, Kansas. This new facility is 200,000 square feet with plenty of storage for bulk grains, refrigerated goods and other food-grade products. According to Food Business News, reduced warehouse space is a serious challenge. A survey among supply chain managers showed that more than 50% don’t believe that supply chains will return to normal until 2024 or after, and 30% think it will take even longer — if it materializes at all. With the new facility, VS Solutions is striving to be that Midwest solution.

Food and drugs

(Photo: Tillamook)

Tillamook County Creamery Association, most commonly known for its delicious blocks of cheese, has decided it too would like a piece of the frozen food pie. It is coming out with frozen pizza and macaroni and cheese. The mac will come in three flavors: classic cheddar, sharp cheddar and uncured bacon, and cheddar and hatch chile. The pizza will have four flavors: pepperoni, three cheese, three cheese supreme and cheesy BBQ chicken. Josh Archibald, executive chef of culinary development, said, “Our new products truly spotlight and celebrate our bold, award-winning cheeses. … They taste like a meal you’d enjoy at the Tillamook Creamery — now in the comfort of your own home.”

Saturday marks the return of college football. People all over the country will voluntarily get up at 6 a.m., or earlier, to tailgate and prep for a day full of football. Turns out there are more than just the team supporters turning out for game day. Bojangles, known for its fried chicken and biscuits, has staked its claim as the must-stop place on game day. The restaurant chain has released a tailgate experience and partnered with 11 NCAA and NFL teams for co-branded boxes. The meals in the boxes will feature 25 pieces of chicken, two family fixins, five biscuits and five sauces. The team-branded boxes are only while supplies last, so if you have a team in the Southeast, better be there first thing Saturday.

Cold chain lanes

(SONAR Tickers: RHAUL)

This week’s reefer market is all of them. The above map shows the Reefer Headhaul Index. It’s a good indicator of capacity changes for refrigerated equipment. For example, if the spread between the Reefer Outbound Tender Volume Index and the Reefer Inbound Tender Volume Index increases, it could indicate capacity is decreasing. The blue markets are markets where there are more outbound reefer loads than inbound loads, which is great for carriers moving into the market as there should be few issues securing outbound freight. The red markets, on the other hand, have more inbound reefer freight than outbound. In places like Seattle, where it’s pretty dark red, it’s less than ideal, but having the Pendelton, Oregon, market close by is advantageous to carriers looking for a reload.

Is SONAR for you? Check it out with a demo!

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Wanna chat in the cooler? Shoot me an email with comments, questions or story ideas at [email protected].

See you on the internet.


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The second annual F3: Future of Freight Festival will be held in Chattanooga, “The Scenic City,” this November. F3 combines innovation and entertainment — featuring live demos, industry experts discussing freight market trends for 2024, afternoon networking events, and Grammy Award-winning musicians performing in the evenings amidst the cool Appalachian fall weather.

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