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Heat is a major factor to consider while shipping your fresh catch across state or even country lines.

8 Tips for Safely Shipping Fresh Seafood

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Follow these expert tips to to successfully ship your seafood nationwide.
By David Madden August 2018 Expert Insights

Have you ever watched “Deadliest Catch” and wondered, "How do these captains get their freshly caught crab off to the market from Alaska?" You’re not alone. Transporting fresh or frozen fish and seafood requires a great deal of planning to ensure that not only the right equipment is used, but making sure your catch gets to its destination in top-quality shape.

The biggest factor, as you can guess with seafood or any perishable item, is time. It is important to have a strong understanding of the time requirements for delivering the seafood to its destination. Having your seafood spoiled, thawed out or bruised upon arrival could potentially cost you money and trust from your customers. While this happens often, it could be avoided by understanding the time requirements and proper preparation process.

On average, it will take a carrier approximately 10–24 hours to reach their destination. Therefore, having the correct materials used to package your seafood can provide the fish with enough protection and refrigeration to maintain a frozen environment during that time.

Making plans for this can be costly, and it would be important to discuss this with the location the fish will be transported to. Try to outline how the fish caught on a daily basis will be cleaned, packaged, frozen and transported. There are also quite a few fishing lodges that will offer cleaning and packaging services in addition to providing a container and refrigerants that can be purchased.

There’s a lot that goes into the transportation of fresh or frozen seafood. Here are eight tips that would allow you to make better preparations to successfully ship your seafood.

1. Use Proper Storage Processes

To store your fresh fish, make sure it’s rinsed under cold water and pat dried with paper towels. This helps keep your catch fresh after a long commute, cleaning it of any contaminants. To avoid this issue, place cleaned fish onto a cake rack and ensure that the fish don’t overlap, then place the rack in a shallow pan.

If the fish needs to be stored for over 24 hours, fill the pan with crushed ice. Cover the pan with plastic wrap or foil, seal it tightly and place the racks in a refrigerator. Ensure that all fish and seafood are thawed in the refrigerator.

2. Understand The Need for Low Temperature

The storage life span of frozen fish is dependent on the temperature of the environment it’s stored in. For example, when white fish is frozen within a short time after catching and stored at negative 20 degrees, it remains in first class condition for eight months. On the other hand, when it’s stored at 15 degrees, it remains in top condition for only one month.

Ensuring that your seafood maintains at low temperatures when say, moving it from coast to coast, is a difficult and particular task. Continuously measure the temperature of the fish to keep it properly frozen and stored while in transit.

3. Consider The Container Design

Journeys to transport frozen fish rarely last for over 30 thirty hours, even when you include time spent at receiving ports. Most seafood shipping is completed within 24 hours. Containers need to be designed to keep a load of seafood delivered at a temperature that is no higher than zero degrees but preferably below 5 degrees.

It is recommended that you include about five inches of suitable insulation. The insulation used must be light, have low thermal conductivity and be resistant to moisture penetration. Aluminum, for example, would be great for insulation.

4. Control Heat

Heat is a major factor to consider while shipping your fresh catch across state or even country lines. Heat is capable of passing through the insulation of a vehicle used to transport frozen seafood due to its large size. During a 24-hour trip, rises in temperature could be as high as 10 degrees. Any temperature increase, no matter how brief, will have a negative effect on the quality of the fish.

In an experiment performed in Canada, fish stored at zero degrees were allowed to rise to 15 degrees over three days and cooled down again back to zero degrees. As a result of the temperature increase, an estimated six weeks of storage life was lost.

5. Understand Regulations for Perishable Shipments

It’s important to understand the regulations for transporting items such as frozen fish and seafood. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a shipment is perishable if its contents will deteriorate over a given period of time when exposed to harsh environmental conditions, such as humidity or extreme temperatures. So, fish and seafood would be subject to perishable goods regulations.

The Perishable Cargo Regulations (PCR) manual is a worldwide standard for the preparation, packaging and handling of items that are time-sensitive. This list also contains a comprehensive classification of many perishable goods, along with transportation regulations. Understanding and complying with the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) requirements for perishable shipments is imperative.

6. Use The Right Boxes

The containers that are most commonly used to transport fresh or frozen fish are the two-piece wax box, foam box, plastic cooler and the CF-60 fold-up box. To decide which box is most suitable to use, consider a few factors. Will you be shipping frozen or fresh fish? How is your fish going to be packaged? Will the fish be cut to size or would it be whole fish? Every one of these questions would need to be answered so that you can make the best choice for a storage box to transport your fish.

7. Use Refrigerants

Typically, when transporting frozen fish, refrigerants aren’t needed—the frozen nature and ice are enough to keep your precious catch safe for the entire trip. However, when shipping fresh fish, you will require a refrigerant. The most common types of refrigerants used include gel ice, wet ice, or dry ice. If your fish will be transported by air, double check airline regulations to know what types of refrigerants are permitted.

8. Ensure That Your Container is Properly Packed

There are a lot of ways to package your frozen or fresh fish and seafood. There are also a variety of containers you can use to transport them. The most important thing to consider when packing your seafood is to ensure that you remove as much air out of the package as possible, regardless of the type of container that you use.

David Madden is an efficiency expert, as well as being the Founder and President of Container Exchanger. His passion and business is to save companies money through the use of used reusable and repurposed industrial packaging such as plastic and metal bulk containers, gaylord boxes, bulk bags, pallets, ibc totes, and industrial racks.