Transport industry: “We’re affected tremendously by salmon prices and increasing volumes of salmon”

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Bring Frigo’s thermal energy terminal not only serves as a transit point for trucks delivering salmon from the slaughter plant for onward transport, but also as a cool store to stockpile fish while waiting for better prices.

A whiff of fresh fish meets us from the sterile cool store. Covering a surface area of approximately 4,000 square metres, the interior echoes the logistics company’s characteristic colours; white walls, grey floor and green ceiling. Apart from pallets of polystyrene boxes stacked with ice and salmon from Norway Royal Salmon, SalMar and Coast Seafood in the middle of the floor, the cool store is practically bare for goods. Along one side of the building are 20 loading points, one of which has two trucks alongside waiting to be loaded.

Morten Ziener. PHOTO: Emili Knutson

“There’s not much traffic here just now. It’s busiest from 6 to 10 in the morning, so most of the orders we have received from customers have been loaded on to the trucks and driven from the terminal within that period,” Coordinator Morten Ziener told SalmonBusiness.

The quiet period doesn’t last longer than for a few hours. Already in the evening a new round gets underway with temperature-controlled salmon being driven out of the warehouse.

Bringing salmon all the way
Bring comprises Norway Post’s business customers. The company offers goods transport, logistics solutions and freight of temperature-regulated food products with the aid of trucks, containers and semitrailers in Norway and Europe.

The building of the thermal energy cool store was completed May 2016. The terminal contributes toward providing customers with more efficient logistics by having proximity to both the main road network and railway terminal.

Erik Gamlemoen, Managing Director of Bring Frigo, gave us a quick introduction to how the operation works on a daily basis: “We set up the whole route plan for the customer. From the time they order the salmon from the slaughter plant until we arrive and collect the consignment at a specific time, to when it is to be delivered here or other places in Europe”.

Bring Frigo fetches fish from the coast throughout the week and transports these to Alnabru, close to Oslo, Norway. The terminal functions as a hub for customers receiving salmon from different producers, where orders are put together for sale of the fish elsewhere in Europe.

“Once the customers have sold the salmon they have at the terminal, we receive a pick list and a commercial invoice. We put the order together based on the information we have been given. From there the goods are driven to the buyer, unless the customer collects the order directly from the terminal,” said Gamlemoen.

Normally production runs from Monday to Friday, but in periods where there is significant volume, producers also harvest fish in the weekends.

“Volume builds up toward the weekend, so the bulk of goods leave here on Thursday, Friday and Saturday in order to reach the various markets,” said Gamlemoen.

Increase in volume
There’s a visible increase in volume towards wintertime. High season is traditionally around the close of the year, and any increase is steered by the market.

“We gauge how many fish are going in and out of the terminal daily by the number of kilos, boxes and pallets. We also note the salmon’s transit time. From this observation we see that volumes increase successively the nearer we get to Christmas, and then stops and reduces a little again over New Year. How much work we have to do varies according to how many fish are harvested,” he said.

Gamlemoen stressed that Bring Frigo copes easily with the increase in salmon export volumes the closer winter approaches.

“We organise sound, efficient transport solutions for the significant volumes that are transported directly from the coast to Europe. On the other hand, when volumes are smaller, more salmon pass through the terminal. Otherwise, fluctuations in volume are dealt with by dimensioning historically and try to have sufficient staff accordingly,” explained Gamlemoen.

Storage when prices fall
Tore Wallestad is COO and sales director at Bring Frigo. According to Wallestad, export volumes usually also vary in line with market prices. Customers often stockpile fish in the cold store when salmon prices fall sink in the hope that prices will stabilise.

Tore Wallestad. FOTO: Emili Knutson

“The price picture varies much more than it did previously, with prices constantly fluctuating. A good indicator that the market is functioning well is that it is empty here on a Monday morning. If it’s empty here, all the customers have sold their fish in the weekend and dispatched the goods. If, on the other hand, there is a lot of fish here, the market is sluggish and they have decided to keep the goods here,” he said.

Fluctuation in volumes proved a challenge previously but has become easier to manage with the terminal.

“We’re affected tremendously by salmon prices and volume slaughtered. Previously, we were challenged in terms of space and staffing. That’s all changed in recent years. Our permanent staff take care of normal operations, and we have available capacity to cope with peak periods,” Wallestad said.

The terminal is no larger than the previous one, but terminal has more loading points and better logistics solutions. Employees are able to load the salmon on to and out of several lorries simultaneously.

“The layout in the centre is completely different, with greater capacity for moving goods in and out faster. Before we had ramps only on one side of the building, which limited the rate at which we got the work done during busy periods. It’s far more efficient now,” concluded Wallestad.

Optimised route network
In a few hours’ time, the staff will return to work, but before then Ziener has to prepare the pick lists from the customers.

When the next shift begins, fresh fish are loaded on to pallets. The staff collects the consignments and load on board various trucks, and route network is optimised according to the different destinations. Some of the trucks deliver their cargo to Norwegian customers. Others drive their loads to the nearest rail depot three kilometres away, for further export by train.

This story was first time published at www.ilaks.no 16 November 2016