The Story Of Cavendish Bananas And Their Shipment!

Credit: Eiliv Aceron/ unsplash
  • Bananas are grown in all tropical regions of the world, and most of the global production is consumed in home markets.
  • However, a significant proportion of the production is intended for export, and the Cavendish variety is by far the most popular one for export. 
  • This variety is generally harvested in an unripe, green condition and transported to the end market as refrigerated cargo, either in containers or on specialized reefer vessels.

Though said to be the world’s most transported- and consumed fruit, bananas are also among the most sensitive cargoes that can be carried on a ship. Before a banana ends up on the shelves of your local supermarket it has been exposed to numerous external factors which all have a bearing on how the banana is finally presented. A selection of these issues will be discussed more in-depth in the article. The Skuld source.


Cavendish bananas are generally grown in large monoculture plantations in countries such as Ecuador, Costa Rica and Colombia. A successful growth phase is dependent on appropriate temperatures and adequate rainfall. Drought, heat waves and weather phenomena such as “El Niño” may severely affect the quality of the bananas. Cavendish bananas are also known to be vulnerable to a wide range of diseases. It is an essential part of the banana export trade that the bananas are harvested in a “green” condition. This way, the ripening progression can be controlled during transport up and until presentation to the consumer markets. The ripening process of the bananas is irreversible if the bananas are allowed to enter the “climacteric” phase before transport.

Transport And Storage

After harvesting in the fields, the bananas are transported inland or on rivers to central hubs where they are prepared for loading into containers or on to reefer vessels. The preparations may include washing, chemical processing to protect the peel, as well as packing and storage. It is essential that the inland transport stage is as short as possible in order to prevent the bananas from reaching the climacteric stage of the ripening process due to exposure to high temperatures. The packing of the bananas will also have an impact on how long the bananas can successfully be stored. It is assumed that green bananas will keep for 28 days in regular packing, whereas bananas packed in specialized “banavac” polyethylene bags will keep for about 40 days.

Temperature Settings

The cargo must be loaded in a careful manner and stowed in a way which allows for proper air circulation. If air circulation is blocked, the cargo will be unevenly cooled. This may cause some of the cargo, typically the cargo stowed farthest away from the air delivery point, to ripen prematurely. A difference between the Delivery Air Temperature (DAT) and the Return Air Temperature (RAT) indicates that the cargo stow is blocking air circulation. Whether the carrier is liable for cargo damage caused by improper loading or stowage will, under English law, depend on whether the carrier is responsible for these operations under the contract of carriage. Under for instance a clean Gencon ’94 Charter Party, the loading and stowage will be the charterer’s risk and responsibility. If this is the case, the carrier should have a strong defense where it can be proved that the cargo damage is caused by improperly executed cargo operations.

Voyage Instructions

In addition to specifying the temperature settings during the voyage, the shipper’s voyage instructions will often contain requirements to pre-cool the cargo holds as well as requirements regarding ventilation, air composition or for a certain relative air humidity in the holds to be maintained. It is essential that the shipper’s instructions are followed, and that this is properly recorded. Proper documentation of strict obedience to the shipper’s instructions will often assist in the defense against cargo damage claims.

Cargo Surveys

Whenever a cargo of bananas arrive with signs of damage, local correspondents and surveyors will routinely be appointed to record the events and assess the damages. Should the damage turn out to be serious, it is highly recommended to instruct expert surveyors to attend as soon as possible even where this involves cross-border travels. It is essential that the expert surveyor arrives on site when the evidence is fresh, as expert reports prepared on the basis of pictures and third-party reporting will carry less weight and value in the defense against cargo claims. Preferably, the expert surveyor should get in place when the vessel is still at discharge port so that the crew can be properly interviewed, and all relevant documentation can be collected. The expert surveyor should also assist in taking representative samples of the cargo and ensure that the testing methods are appropriate, which again will assist in determining the exact cause of the damage.

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Source: Skuld


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