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Swift route

World salmon consumption is rising. For the most ­part, fresh salmon gets to its target markets outside Europe by airfreight. This time, “planet’s” on-site visit takes Alexis von Hoensbroech, Board Member Product and Sales at ­Lufthansa Cargo, to Marine Harvest in Norway.

In Bokna Fjord, Tom Mikkelsen, Head of Airfreight at Marine Harvest, inspects a salmon farm a few nautical miles north of Stavanger with Alexis von Hoensbroech, Board Member Product and Sales at Lufthansa Cargo.


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Whether as sushi or sashimi, cooked on a bed of herbs or grilled fresh over the fire – salmon enjoys huge popularity all over the world. Fresh fish is first choice – especially for gourmet cuisine. Rising demand also means the growth of industrial fish production. The same applies to the transport of the fish by airfreight which, in the medium-term, is likely to grow by eight to nine percent a year. “This is a truly above-average increase for a product in the airfreight industry,” as Tom Mikkelsen knows. “We do expect sales to level off at some point, but at a significantly higher level than now!” Mikkelsen says with reason. As Head of Airfreight at Marine Harvest, one of the world’s leading fish producers head­quartered in Norway, he always has his finger precisely on the pulse of the market.

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Temperature-controlled goods such as fish are crucial in the land of a thousand fjords. Last year, 83 percent of Norway’s export tonnage was from this sector. Marine Harvest is proud of its highly specialized logistics and valued-added chain. Lufthansa Cargo Board Member Alexis von Hoensbroech had the chance to take a close look at these special logistics ­operations. “As a carrier we need to be entirely familiar with the demands and market mechanisms of a growth segment that is so important for airfreight. That’s why such a visit is invaluable.” 

Everything’s fully automatic and “clean”: in just seven minutes the six-kilogram salmon are killed and packed ready for dispatch.


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Marine harvest supplies some 70 countries – by airfreight too.

Set amid picturesque fjord scenery in the west of Norway not far from Stavanger lies one of Marine Harvest’s numerous fish farms. A half-hour boat journey takes von Hoensbroech there. The Atlantic salmon grow in areas demarcated by nets with a circumference of around 180 meters. “Until they’ve reached their slaughter weight of six kilograms, the salmon spend around three years in the farms,” explains Knut Are Johansen, the farm’s Site Manager. There are 200,000 specimens in every net. With the aid of underwater cameras, ­Johansen and his colleagues ceaselessly check that the salmon are doing well. The marine inhabitants are fed specially produced fish feed: part of the holistically controlled value-added chain. Once the salmon have reached their target weight they are killed and transported to fish eaters ­throughout the world. Around a quarter of Marine Harvest’s production leaves Norway by plane. The company serves a total of 70 countries worldwide. The most important export markets besides Europe: the USA and Asia, especially Japan and Korea. ­However, sales in Saudi Arabia are also rising sharply.

The salmon are continually monitored using underwater cameras. From the live pictures of the edible fish, experts can draw conclusions about their state of health and intervene if required. 


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Projections by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) put world fish consumption for 2014 at 144.6 million tons. This adds up to per capita fish consumption of 20 kilograms – a record. The amount ­consumed per country varies considerably: in Iceland each person eats an average of more than 60 kilograms per year. China and Japan are at similar levels. Even in the USA, Canada and Denmark, fish consumption, at 30 kilograms per head per year, is still above average. At 14 kilograms of fish per head and per year, Germany ranks just below mid-table.

Even though the figure in Lufthansa Cargo’s domestic market is lower than the world average, Germany’s fish consumers still show an extremely high level of interest in Marine Harvest’s salmon: with a 19 percent market share, salmon ranks clear second in terms of the most popular fish, directly after the Alaska ‘Seelachs’, which belongs to the pollack and codfish group and provides the raw material for fish sticks. 

Japan and the middle east are important markets.

Japan and the middle east are important markets.

Not far from the fish farm visited by von Hoensbroech, Marine Harvest is opening the doors of one of its five Norwegian fish factories. Awaiting the visitor is a highly automated production line beginning right at the quay wall. The slaughter-ready salmon are landed alive by ship in large water tanks. Swift is the word for it: in barely seven minutes the salmon is killed, taken out and packed for its journey to the wholesalers or direct to the supermarkets.
“Every hour, 3,500 of them are processed,” explains Jamaa Nouissri, shift supervisor in production. No matter whether as fillets or whole fish – hygiene, speed and supreme quality are given top priority. Only one thing counts for the customer: freshness. And to ensure the salmon do not lose this freshness on their coming journey, Marine Harvest leave nothing to chance. Alongside tried-and-tested partners who are obliged to prove their quality every day, the company also relies on its own in-house logistics company. “We’re still in the early stages here,” says Mikkelsen, who is convinced of the benefit of an integrated supply chain. The product is consolidated at Marine Harvest’s central hub in Oslo.

This is where all the factories deliver their fish. “Fast in, fast out is our motto,” says the 58-year-old logistics expert. “The salmon are palletized in our 7,000 square-meter warehouse for international truck shipment or for transportation by plane.” Marine Harvest has a unique pallet builder in operation – in the shape of a robot. “Here we benefit from the advantages of the fish boxes. They are always the same size and have a smooth surface.” By creating a vacuum the robot manages to assemble the boxes to form optimum pallets. “Depending on the requirements of the airline we construct the ULDs here on the spot which we then deliver direct. Thanks to our certification as a known consignor, our cargo doesn’t have to go through any more security checks at the airport,” says Mikkelsen.
Fish needs to be absolutely fresh. Marine Harvest therefore takes great care in selecting its air carrier. Good service, reliability, professional staff and a global network are ­important factors. “The fact that Lufthansa Cargo flies with freighters direct from the Frankfurt hub to the important markets of Japan and the Middle East and the market in Africa is very important for us,” explains Mikkelsen. All in all: modern handling, rapid refrigerated transport and suitable partners – this is Tom Mikkelsen’s recipe for success, enabling Marine Harvest’s salmon to provide culinary delights around the world.


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Freshness matters:

Alexis von ­Hoensbroech gets the facts from Tom Mikkelsen in a Marine Harvest refrigerated warehouse.

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Continuous cold chain, maximum hygiene:

The salmon go immediately by truck to the airfreight hubs, Frankfurt for example.

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What marine harvest is for me:
In 2016, Marine Harvest will produce 414,000 tons of Arctic salmon and is thus the world’s largest supplier thanks to branches in 24 countries, a global reach, the highest quality and a sophisticated value-added chain.

What impressed me:
At all levels Marine Harvest has access to innovative technology, enabling it to operate as efficiently and rapidly as possible. Maximum precision and uncompromising quality is the name of the game. This enables the freshness of the product to be safeguarded, which is critical to the company’s success.

What i take back with me:
I personally am also very fond of salmon. Experiencing the production first-hand represents a unique opportunity. The fish business is a growth market that should not be underestimated by logistics professionals.


Bernhard Hüber / Jürgen Mai

planet 2/2016