Moisture damage on container shipments costs billions every year. Absortech’s moisture protection systems absorb moisture in the containers, saving the products and reducing the waste.

”Protecting cargo from moisture damage during shipment ought to be just as matter of course as protection against physical damage or theft. Of approximately five billion dollars worth of damaged goods annually, ten percent is related to moisture. The result is poor resource management, negative impact on the climate and the environment, and economic losses. A good way to avoid moisture damage is to use desiccants inside the shipping containers”, says Fredrik Lindberg, Regional Director Nordics at Absortech International.

Cheap moisture damage insurance

”Absortech was founded in 1996, building on more than 20 years of experience of calcium chloride-based desiccants for industrial purposes. The company is a pioneer and world leader in moisture protection technology, with operations around the world and with subsidiary companies and partners in more than 50 countries. Thanks to considerable investments in R&D, the product portfolio is large and growing. Absortech was first to use calcium chloride, with its superior absorption capacity, as an industrial desiccant product. We were also first to offer a product fully designed for hanging within the corrugated recess of container walls”, Fredrik Lindberg says.

Absorpole® contains calcium chloride and is hung on the container wall to protect the cargo from moisture during the passage. Illustration: Absortech.

”Absorbents can be used to protect many kinds of cargo. They can prevent metals and machines from corroding, for instance, or protect foodstuff and textiles from mold. When damage occurs it may result in substantial losses. Discardings, repackings, delays and clean-ups are often costly. One of the environmental advantages is that fewer transports are needed to compensate for damaged goods. Not having to manufacture replacement products saves resources as well, of course”.

”Calcium chloride belongs to the new generation of desiccants. The material can absorb 2.5 times its own weight of water, completely outperforming its predecessors clay and silica gel. Calcium chloride is a pure natural product without chemical additives, something that the customers appreciate. It is a cheap insurance against moisture damage; protecting one container with calcium chloride absorbents costs between 300 and 1000 SEK”, Fredrik says.

Protecting cocoa

A container is a closed system with its own unique climatic system inside. It is not unusual to have containers where temperatures range from freezing to over 50° Celsius (122° Fahrenheit) during the course of a single voyage. Warm air can hold more moisture than cold air, and the moisture is brought into the container along with the air, the products and the packaging. If the temperature drops, the moisture will condense on the coolest surfaces, such as the container ceiling; it basically starts to rain inside the container, which obviously may damage the cargo.

Cocoa is a commodity that is transported across the globe in bulk. Today, up to 15 percent of the cacao is wasted due to moisture defects upon arrival. It is transported in ordinary containers without cooling and access to electricity. A single container can hold 25 tonnes of cocoa enclosed in sacks, and the water content of every sack is 7.5 percent. It is not unusual for the cargo to be stored outdoors for weeks, in very hot climate, before being loaded on ships. The temperature in the container can go up to 40 – 60°C during the day, with 100 percent humidity. In nighttime, the outside temperature drops to 15°C, cooling the container’s metal surface. Water vapour condenses on the ceiling and walls of the container, and drips down on the cocoa sacks. This is just the beginning of the cocoa’s long journey, and the cargo experiences very shifting climate conditions during the weeks of shipment. When the shipment arrives in Europe, it is stored in harbour for another week or so. Everytime the outside of the container is cooler than the inside, there is risk of condensation that may damage the load. One percentage point of the 7.5 percent water content is lost from the sacks during shipment, adding up to 250 liters of “rainfall” per container on the cocoa.

”Avoiding moisture damage on cocoa shipments is a big challenge. Absorption with traditional desiccants is not good enough due to the volume of humidity. The solution we developed is a new technology called AbsorVent™. It consists of a small, battery powered fan which is attached with magnets to the ventilation on the container wall. It pulls fresh air into the container, and the moist air is pushed out. The fan is there during the entire transport, and is preferrably used in combination with Absortech absorvents. Since a 40-foot long container loaded with cocoa can be worth 800 000 – 900 000 SEK, a 15 percent spoil rate is a substantial loss of value. In a life-cycle perspective, the impact on the environment is substantial, too; to grow and refine a commodity and transport it all over the world only to throw it away is hardly a sustainable practice”, Fredrik Lindberg says.

The article was published in January 2018.