Maintain the Freshness Of Seafood Shipments Using These Six Easy-To-Find Items
If you go on a fishing trip or visit a coastal town while on vacation and you need to get a load of seafood back home to enjoy it later; or, if you want to send it to friends or relatives for them to partake; or, if you’re a small seafood retailer who wants to capitalize on out-of-town business by integrating optional seafood shipping then you need know what to use for packaging the seafood contents, because the right supplies will ensure your packages arrive with their contents still fresh and ready to prepare. There are six items that will ensure you get that result.
EPS Foam Shipping Cooler (or « Foam Shipper »)
These thermally reliable shipping containers are mold-constructed from Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), a light-weight, water-resistant material that is perfect for transporting fresh or frozen seafood long distances. As matter of fact, they are the top choice among fishing boats and seafood markets for that very purpose because of their low-cost, reusability, and recyclability.
Wall thickness will impact thermal properties, with a 1.5 to 2 inch wall thickness being superior to a 1 inch wall thickness for keeping cargo cool. Your shipping cooler should come with a secure lid that does not easily slide off.
Cold Temperature Refrigerants – Gel Packs or Dry Ice
For keeping your cargo cold or frozen, you will surround it with coolants on the bottom, top, and sides, using either gel packs or dry ice, making adjustments in amount to match the range of coldness you want to maintain (whether you want your items to arrive frozen or just very cold).
There are many types of gel pack refrigerants available that can be frozen and used in place of ice, then reused later, repeatedly, as long as they are well taken care of. Estimates for how much to use in your shipping package ranges from 1 pound for every 10 pounds (1 to 10 ratio) of seafood to an even 1 pound for every single pound of seafood (1 to 1 ratio).
When it comes to maintaining the freshness of your cargo it’s better to be safe than sorry, so having more coolant is better than having too little, so the closer you get to a 1 to 1 ratio, the better. Of course, it also depends on how far you’re shipping. The less refrigerant, the faster you’d better make delivery. If you can’t do overnight, then protect your cargo with a greater amount of coolant.
With dry ice, you have the additional issue of its « sublimation, » that is, the fact that it slowly converts back to its natural gaseous state at a rate of 5 to 10 pounds every 24 hours, so you need to think about securing your contents so that they don’t move around too much when extra space is created due to sublimating dry ice. Also, dry ice has very strict shipping and handling requirements, so be sure to ask your courier. Also, make sure your recipient is aware of a dry ice shipment so that they do not open the container in a tight, closed space with little air circulation.
Again, there’s the matter of how much to use, and the guidelines are not that different from gel packs when it comes to weight ratios, except that dry ice will have volume concerns, possibly increasing what you have to pay for shipping. If you don’t want to go through all of that, then stick with gel packs for simplicity’s sake (if you have the choice).
Thick Plastic Bag Wrapping and Ties for Sealing for Two or Three Layers of Protection
You’ll need two or three plastic bags of at least 2 millimeter thickness so that your seafood cargo does not puncture the baggies (fish fins and crab shells can be quite sharp). Your seafood goes in one bag, is tightly secured and sealed using the ties (twist ties, zip ties, or other) and then that bagged seafood is placed in a second for double-bagging security. Seal the second bag so that it securely contains the first. That way your arrangement will be better protected from puncture damage and unnecessary leaks.
You may opt for a third bag into the bottom of which you can place some frozen gel packs. Place the already-secured doubled-bagged arrangement in the third and then secure it for triple-layered protection with the third layer being thermally cooled.
Be very careful with dry ice in relation to thin plastics as they may not go well together. Sturdy plastic is a better option and you should NOT seal dry ice in an airtight plastic baggie.
Absorbent Liner Material or Padding
Don’t risk a mess. A bit of liquid-absorbing padding in the bottom of your shipping cooler helps collect any melting frost or accidental liquid spills from punctures in the plastic wrapping. Better to keep the container cleaner and easier to reuse.
« Filler » Material for Stuffing Extra Space
Usually you can use shredded paper, newspaper, or shipping popcorn foam to pack voids of space in the container so that your contents don’t shift around during transit. If you’re using dry ice as a coolant, this is very important as it turns into a gas leaving extra space for cargo to get knocked around in later in the trip.
Cardboard Shipping Box
Finally, your foam shipping cooler and its contents will be placed snuggly fitting into a very sturdy corrugated cardboard container box to be sealed tight and taken to the shipping company for delivery.
For most efficient results, find a reputable company who can provide these necessary materials to you all at once for a reasonable price. That way you don’t waste a lot of valuable time looking all around for the shipping cooler, gel packs, plastic bags, absorbent liner, filler material, and fitted cardboard box in which to package the seafood you need to have delivered out of town.