Cold Storage Facilities

By Mariella Dauphinee, Marine Claims Manager, Western Division, Intact Insurance Company and member of the Loss Prevention Committee, IUMI

The continuing popularity of certain coverages, and moving into new markets such as Latin America, has given rise to queries about certain exposures beyond the traditional cargo lines. Risks and exposures found in refrigerated warehouses is becoming increasingly of interest and I will be hosting an IUMI webinar on this topic on the 5 December 2017, please click here to register.

The demand for food products drives the need to build logistical centres and warehouses for refrigerated or frozen food products, necessary for distribution to various points of consumption. It is estimated that cold storage warehouses are used to store approximately 200 billion dollars of refrigerated or frozen food products each year. However, the use of cold storage warehouses is not limited to food products, as they are also used in the pharmaceutical, petrochemical and high-tech electronic industries. My detailed paper on this topic is available online here but below are some of the key points.

Buildings: Cold storage buildings have been referred to as heated buildings turned inside out. Essentially, traditional construction turned inside out, where the cold side becomes the warm side and the warm side becomes the cold. Instead of designing to keep heat in during cold weather, they are designed to keep it out.

Mechanical vapour - compression systems: The most commonly used method of cooling cold stores is through vapour-compression cycles. Any liquid, in order to pass to a gaseous state, needs to absorb heat from its surrounding environment. A refrigerant is any liquid that acts as a cooling agent thus removing heat from one area as it evaporates. For large cold storage facilities, ammonia remains the refrigerant of choice as it is known to have the highest refrigerating capacity/effect per pound of any other refrigerant, in spite of being toxic, explosive and flammable within certain conditions.

Airflow and air distribution: A properly sized refrigeration system becomes inefficient if it is unable to deliver air to areas that need it. Consequently, airflow and air distribution are important factors to take into account, as is the case when stowing cargo in reefer containers, one needs to consider the fact that air follows the path of least resistance. Consequently, loading patterns in particular, as well as fan capacity, should be carefully calculated to ensure that there is uniform distribution throughout the cold chamber.

The basics: A cold storage facility must have continuous and reliable electric power supply, allowing the generator to maintain critical temperatures within the facility. There must be continuous monitoring of temperature and humidity levels through use of automated alarm systems capable of detecting if the temperature or humidity falls outside the acceptable parameters. There must also be gas detection alarms that will be activated if there is an ammonia leak, as well as fire sprinkler systems specifically designed for cold storage facilities.

The field of refrigeration and cold storage is both interesting and challenging. It is one that has become interconnected to traditional marine cargo lines of business and therefore worthy of review and study by marine insurance practitioners.

For the full paper please click here