Ocean transportation is being looked on for a substantial cost advantage in international pharma logistics in recent years, given the tightening capacity for air cargo, and the relative plenitude of ocean capacity at the moment. But a further economic advantage can be had, at least some of the time, for controlled room-temperature (CRT; generally regarded as 15-25°C) shipments by using thermal blankets in standard containers rather than refrigerative (“reefer”) containers.
The practice is not particularly new, say experts at Q Products, which has had customers in the food and chemical industry using the blanket technology for years, and is seeing growing interest among pharma shippers. The trend is being driven by tightening regulation of CRT shipments under GDP (good distribution practice) standards.
There are a variety of options to consider: the thickness of the insulating blanket (generally a composite of synthetic films and insulating fiber), and the use of both a top quilt and sidewalls (see photo). Relative to the reefer option, shippers can save $1,500-3,000 per shipment for leased or purchased blankets. Additionally, care should be taken in specifying where the container is placed on a ship (above- or below-deck), and the seasonal temperature conditions of the trade lane. The shipment can be kept within spec for 10-30 days, says the firm. Prequalification testing should be done in most cases.
More information is available at Q Products.