BananaS AboarD! ThE StowagE PlaN

We bananas are among the most shipped items in the world.

But, if we are placed in reefers, how are we located on board?

As you may have read in our previous post “A banana`s journey from the tropics ….” it takes a lot of time and effort for us bananas to make it to your table.

Indeed, by weight, bananas represent one of the most shipped cargos. There may be many supermarket brands around the corner, but most of their perishable goods are grown overseas and then shipped to them. Companies mainly opt for sea freight as the way of shipping their food. This mode of shipping has become faster and more reliable than air shipping, particularly when applied to large volumes.

You may wonder how your bananas get to you by sea or, in other words,  how we are placed in a vessel. Many factors are important in this process. But there’s one that plays a key role in: the stowage plan.

Imagine that you had to fill a room almost 200 times bigger than the boot of your car. You would of course need a plan to achieve maximum efficiency without losing your sanity in the process. The stowage  plan is an essential tool when loading cargo ships. Because the sorting of cargo into containers is done even before the cargo is loaded.

Let´s find out more about the importance of a stowage plan:

Banana cargo slotsA container ship has different stowage spaces available on board. These spaces where containers can be loaded are called container slots, positions or cells. They are located in different parts of the ship.

The names of the various stowage places are:

As you can see, a major difference is whether the cargo is placed on-deck or under-deck, which highlights the importance of a good stowage plan. When loading the vessel, one must consider the value of the cargo and its sensitivity to various environmental conditions, such as:

    • Solar radiation 
    • Ventilation
    • Spray and rain
    • Humidity
    • Temperature variations

For example, containers travelling on deck are exposed to solar radiation and large daily high temperature variations. By contrast, ventilation is restricted under-deck there. All these issues must obviously be addressed by the stowage plan.

We bananas may travel above or below the deck.  Since our containers are refrigerated, they are less sensitive to environmental conditions. As you already know from our previous post “Reefers pioneers”, bananas travel in reefers, as the refrigerated containers are known.  The reefers will be loaded in the spaces provided for them, taking account that it is essential to select the optimum location in the ship. And this not just to avoid damaging the cargo, also to guarantee the stability and to expedite unloading.Stowage plan sketch

The stowage plan is a longitudinal view of the ship indicating the slot allotted to each container. When the ship is being loaded, each container goes to its designated location, and data about its weight, volume, nature, etc. is recorded. The vertical distribution of weights is very important, as it affects the rolling of the ship. Colours are used to identify the cargo areas to be unloaded at each port, as the ship may have more than one destination.

And that’s why a stowage plan is so indispensable.

We will deal with other aspects related to the stowage plan in future Bananita Posts : For example, how automated are the processes of loading and unloading cargo ships? or how and when do you choose which containers to unload from a ship?.