Transport: Container Dri® II

From A to B: improving transport can fight global food loss

Importing and exporting goods – especially food – is indispensable in our modern society. Today, about 70 percent of all cargo, including different kinds of foods, is transported in containers. The container revolution, initiated by American transport entrepreneur Malcolm McLean in 1956, is in full swing and the market is predicting more growth.

The benefits are clear. Containers can be stacked to save space, and easily transferred between land and sea transport. Transport of freight by air is certainly quicker. However, the climate impact in regards to the transported amount is much higher than shipment by sea.

According to information given by IHS Global Insight, for example, about 123 million TEU of goods worldwide were transported by sea in 2013. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCATD) predicted a volume of almost 160 million TEU for the same year.


Unfortunately, the perishable nature of food presents a major problem for transports over long distances. This is particularly relevant in less developed countries, where the United Nations’ Save Food initiative has calculated that up to 40 percent of the globally produced food spoils during transport and distribution. The need for innovative products to prevent such loss is an important part of improving the global food situation. »Food is precious and must be treated accordingly,« comments Justin Mueller, Head of Clariant’s Business Group Cargo & Device Protection. Clariant is on the case.

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Preventing container rain

A steel container is exposed to environmental influences during the course of its journey. On longer routes, the weather conditions can vary significantly and inside temperatures fluctuate accordingly. These temperature changes are one reason for the formation of condensation, known in the industry as »container rain« or »container sweat«. Also, the higher the water content of the transported product, the greater the risk of condensation.

The water vapor condensate predisposes the goods to fungal colonization, change in flavor, rotting, corrosion of metals, or color fading. Cartons and packaging materials are also affected by the water, which may impair the sturdiness of the packaging and, in the worst case, lead to cargo damage.

Clariant has developed the drying agent Container Dri II to address this major issue. Based on natural materials with a high calcium chloride content, it provides reliable protection against humidity and water damage. It is able to control relative humidity and thus the so-called dew point — the temperature at which condensation starts to occur on surfaces such as container walls and ceilings. The granular drying agent removes moisture from the ambient air and thus lowers the dew point continously to values below the surface temperature. The formation of »container sweat« is therefore effectively prevented.

What differentiates Container Dri II from other drying agents is its exceptionally high absorption capacity and effectiveness for all temperature and humidity ranges. Container Dri II can hold up to three times its weight in water from the atmosphere. While absorbing water, the product transforms from granules into a gel which securely locks in the water without any possibility for liquid to escape, spill, or drip. Furthermore, the non-toxic drying agent offers a high level of safety and the saturated dehumidification bags, strips, or poles can be disposed of through normal industrial waste.

Container Dri II’s global reputation for protecting food cargo is best experienced in practice.

The onion test

An American onion trader from Ontario tested Container Dri II’s performance in a comparative study. Here, the development of temperature and humidity in terms of time was recorded in two containers loaded with onions for the transport from Ontario (Oregon) to Bronx (New York). The route included different climate zones, hence the products were exposed to high fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Due to the use of containers with controlled air conditioning, it was possible to cool the sensitive foods and prevent large temperature changes: the air was kept at a constant 4-7°C.

To counteract the problem of high humidity, a container was loaded with 324 bags of Container Dri II (about 40 kilograms). In the course of the journey, they absorbed nearly 28 kilograms of water and thus reduced the relative humidity to 42 percent. In contrast, the humidity in the container without the drying agent rose from 72 percent to 82 percent.

Out on the road (and at sea) Container Dri II continues to prove itself as a very suitable drying agent which protects sensitive goods from water damage during intermodal transport.

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