Monitoring heat treatment in cargo containers

Monitoring heat treatment in cargo containers
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When treating containers that are destined to travel overseas, fumigation or an alternative for fumigation is necessary to ensure that no live organisms accidentally travel along. This treatment is carried out in the port before the cargo is exported. When using heat treatment it's crucial to monitor that the temperature inside of the container actually stays stable at the minimum temperature or slightly higher.

Why is heat treatment of cargo containers necessary?

Cargo is often shipped on wooden pallets. Wood tends to attract all sorts of different insects. This is all fine when goods are shipped within the same zone, but becomes dangerous when cargo is exported to other continents. Native insects can turn into dangerous invasive species that endanger ecosystems and agriculture.

When goods are shipped all over the world there's always a chance for some stowaways to come along. A well-known and unwanted passenger is the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB). These bugs are especially being barred from Australia and New Zealand. Not only insects can pose a risk, moulds, microorganisms, reptiles and small mammals have travelled along in the past, spreading disease in their host country.

In order to kill stink bugs and other pests, heat treatment of containers is needed. This process is called fumigation. This treatment happens in the country of origin where the goods leave the harbour.

heat treatment to eradicate pests

The dangers of fumigation

In the past, the toxic gas methyl bromide was used to sanitise shipping containers, but as it turned out it was more harmful than expected. Not only does it eradicate the pests in the container, but it's also harmful to the workers who later on have to inspect the cargo. Methyl bromide is detrimental to the environment and is nowadays banned in parts of the world. The gas also tends to pollute the air and soil into which it diffuses. Even the tiniest bit of residue could cause serious harm to the central nervous system, along with different kinds of brain damage and lung damage. Besides, even the ozone layer turned out to be weakened by it.

An alternative for fumigation turned out to be long overdue.

The alternative

An alternative treatment to fumigation with toxic gases is heat treatment. During this process, the contents of a cargo container are heated to their core to 56°C. This means that the inside of the container reaches at least 60°C for a minimum of 30 minutes. This ensures that bugs such as BMSB are dead, along with their eggs and larvae.

Important to note is that if the core temperature of 56°C fails to be reached and kept for 30 minutes, the treatment is considered unsuccessful. It is therefore crucial that the temperature is closely monitored to make sure that possible pests are eradicated.

The advantage of heat-treating cargo instead of classic fumigation is that the use of dangerous and toxic gases is no longer necessary. It is by far more environmentally friendly and quicker to handle after the treatment: degassing is unnecessary and the container can safely be entered by staff. Of course treatment with high temperatures is only possible when the goods that are transported can withstand this high heat.

After the heat treatment of the container is done the container will simply be opened to let the contents cool down to the temperature of their surroundings. The packaging gets marked with a special HT stamp and the shipment gets the documents and certificates that are needed. The container will be resealed and is ready for export.

monitor heat treatment

Monitoring heat treatments

A heat treatment of cargo is conducted by placing multiple temperature sensors, deep into the cargo to register the temperature in the coldest places. Temperature is recorded, when the minimum values are successfully kept, the container is ready to move along.

When a treatment fails to keep the core temperature at at least 56°C during 30 minutes, the cargo is not able to be exported. The entire process will have to be repeated, causing delays. To ensure a smooth running process in the port, it's vital that these fails can't happen.

A real-time monitoring sensor module would be able to live register the temperature inside of the container throughout the whole 30 minutes.

Historical data can be exported through the Crodeon Dashboard, giving you the opportunity to analyse it in close detail in needed. These records could be especially valuable if it would ever be necessary to prove that a shipment was really subjected to 56°C for 30 minutes.

temperature registration heat treatment container

Reporter for heat treatment

Such a monitoring system is Reporter, the versatile remote monitoring plug & play system. Reporter comes with an autonomous internet connection through a SIM card and is able to work on both grid power and its own solar panel. The system is mobile and can therefore be used in multiple locations. Reporter sends its data to the cloud (Crodeon Dashboard) at intervals of 30 seconds or more. After the treatment all of the exact data and measurements can be presented for record keeping.

The beauty of Reporter is that it's able to be used by everyone. No technical knowledge is needed and the installation is fast & easy.

Start monitoring heat treatments today

Whether you ship your goods across the globe, own the world's largest harbour or perform heat treatments, Reporter is your mobile and reliable remote monitoring system.

Get in touch with us to discuss what we can do for you. Send us an email or give Jonathan a call.

Sources:

European Commission

Lethal High Temperature Extremes of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug and Efficacy of Commercial Heat Treatments for Control in Export Shipping Cargo

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