The Perishable Center Frankfurt handles 110,000 metric tons of goods every year – including fish, flowers and even medicines.
Frankfurt is home to Germany’s largest freshwater fishing port. From salmon to lobster – the cooling experts at the Perishable Center Frankfurt (PCF) handle around 20,000 metric tons of fish and seafood a year. They also handle tropical fruits, meat, flowers and medicines. “We ensure maximum freshness,” explains managing director Christoph Herchenhein, “for around 110,000 metric tons of products a year.”
Mangoes from South America, roses from Kenya and steaks from Australia all travel to Frankfurt
Sundays are the busiest days at the PCF: “This is when we receive goods that have to be fresh on the supermarket shelves after the weekend. On Mondays and Tuesdays we also see huge volumes of goods, some of which are shipped from Frankfurt to other European countries,” says Herchenhein. Most of the products have traveled long distances to get to Frankfurt. Mangoes from South America, roses from Kenya and steaks from Australia are shipped in cargo planes or in special cargo holds on passenger aircraft to Frankfurt – and from there they are often sent all over the world.
Frankfurt is an ideal location, with just a few hundred meters separating the aircraft, the reloading point and the HGV. There are several aircraft parking positions right next to the PCF. The perishable goods travel by the fastest route from there to the 9,000-square-meter center – and vice-versa. The 120 or so employees who work there either load the goods directly onto HGVs, package the perishable goods into individual consignments or get them ready for temporary storage – in one of the 20 different cooling zones with temperatures ranging between minus 24 and plus 24 degrees Celsius.
Import controls and quality checks under one roof
“Our aim is to get the goods back out of our storage facility as quickly as possible because storage time increases the cost,” says Herchenhein. The center provides different handling services to ensure that this process is as smooth as possible. One of these services is customs import clearance. But the PCF does not need to employ additional specialist employees even for these official controls because the veterinary agencies, plant protection services and the German Federal Office for Agriculture and Food employ inspectors in both buildings so that they can inspect the goods on the spot. “One of the things they are guarding against is that plants do not introduce any pathogens into other countries,” says the former managing director Herchenhein. If the inspectors find signs of this, in the worst case scenario the entire shipment will have to be destroyed.
The experts at the PCF also see themselves as the extended arm of the importers. “Their customers don’t see the goods until they arrive with them,” explains Herchenhein. “With certain products, we make recommendations on whether or not they are ready to be shipped. We determine, for example, whether the airfreighted mangoes are already ripe enough or whether it would be better to store them at our facility for another few days.”
Percentage of medicines is growing
Foodstuffs and flowers currently account for around 75 percent of goods at the PCF. “But the percentage of pharmaceuticals is growing increasingly because they are now being produced in lots of different countries,” says Herchenhein. “Handling of medicines in a temperature-controlled environment is based on sensitive regulations such as the EU directives on good manufacturing practice, which we have to comply with for quality assurance of the medicines,” explains Herchenhein.
There are ten employees who are specially trained for this work and who take care of the special incoming goods inspections in the self-cooling containers in which the pharmaceuticals are usually transported. Their job involves checking the charging level of the batteries for the cooling systems and – where necessary – replenishing the dry ice.
Goods continue on their journeys in next to no time
There are also over 250 control sensors that check the ambient temperature of the self-cooling containers. However, most goods only have a short stay at the PCF. After an average of four to eight hours, the pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs and flowers continue on their journeys by aircraft or HGV. This can amount to as many as 500 metric tons a day during peak times.