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Setting the Standard for Fish Transport

In the spring of last year, Norway’s transport industry realized the country’s seafood industry had a huge problem. Norway had just implemented a requirement for a catch certificate on all Norwegian fish, but it still lacked a standardized labelling system for getting the fish to market. A new pilot programme launched this year hopes to solve all that.

 Norwegian seafood producers have been required to label the date and origin of their catch on the box as of January 2010, under a catch certificate scheme adopted by the European Union in 2008. The label helps inform customers about the quality of the catch. It also helps combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries.

But there was a problem. Norwegian seafood producers were losing track of their goods as they were sent along the value chain via exporters, transporters and finally to customers because each producer had its own labelling system about the type and size of fish. This label could also change according to different customers’ needs. Not everyone could read electronically what was on the labels. Every time a shipment was sent to France, for example, someone would have to explain how to retrieve it.

German logistics company Schenker first approached Innovation Norway with the problem early last year. Schenker’s thermo division in Norway felt it was time to look at the industry-wide problem that was plaguing the seafood business and costing the industry time and money.

“For us as a logistics partner, we have to handle all of these different standards,” said Johan Haavardtun, director of production and development at Schenker Norway. “The fish industry is probably the last value chain that doesn’t have this in place.”

“The other part, which is rather special for the seafood industry, is that a pallet is sent to our terminal without knowing who the buyer is,” he added. “We have to build up a new pallet once they have decided who to sell it to. We have to do it manually through a paper list… If you start (standardizing) labelling, you save over the entire value chain.”

The Norwegian seafood industry is participating in a
pilot project to create a labelling standard for distributing
Norwegian salmon most effectively within Norway.
© Tom Haga © Norwegian Seafood Export Council

Pilot Project

Innovation Norway is coordinating the newly launched projects in participation with the leading logistics companies Schenker, Bring and Tollpost Globe, and the major Norwegian seafood producers, supermarket chains, and seafood organizations. The projects are financed under the Marine Value Creation Programme by Norway’s ministry of fisheries and coastal affairs.

The industry project will be divided into three components: a pilot project, standardization project and implementation project. Schenker has already begun work with the national pilot project, along with Lerøy, the second largest producer of salmon and trout in the world, Norges Gruppen, Norway’s largest supermarket operator, Helligvær Fisk, and Nordic Group. Together, they will focus on transporting fresh salmon within Norway most effectively through a standard label system. The international pilot project will most likely include whitefish. The group has already been in contact with grocery stores and the seafood industry in France. Both pilot projects will run until the end of this year.

At the same time, Standard Norway will run a standardization project until next summer to work on establishing a national standard that may be proposed to the European Committee for Standardization CEN or an ISO standard. Afterwards, it will cooperate with the Norwegian Seafood Federation (FHL) and the Norwegian Seafood Association (NSL), an association of small and medium-sized Norwegian enterprises within fisheries, aquaculture and seafood processing business, on implementing the project on a national level.
Workers manually check Norwegian seafood labels and
repackage on pallets.
© Tor Mühlbradt/Innovation Norway

Market Oriented
Tor Mühlbradt, special advisor at Innovation Norway who is helping coordinate the project, says the incentive for creating a standardized seafood label was market oriented. Supermarkets are receiving more demands about quality from both customers and authorities. This was a problem people felt no one was doing anything about.

“This is about giving the point of sale the information they need as digital and readable and using it in logistics to make it more effective,” he said. “The reason this is popular is that it is about picking the low hanging fruits.”

Some of the savings are on the producers’ side. But the logistics companies will get more efficient production and also correct production. The risk of picking up the wrong pallet is minimized if there is a standard bar code labelling system for all seafood products.

Another potential benefit could be achieved from simultaneously incorporating the details from the catch certificate on the new standard label as well. This is something that Schenker is checking now to see if it can be included as a goal in the project.

“It will give better quality on the value chain with correct fish delivery,” said Haavardtun. “There is always the probability that you could pick up the wrong pallet when you have a manual system.”

The new catch certificate label was partly responsible for speeding up the current process for getting a standardized seafood label in place, according to Vidar Olsen, category manager at retail chain Norges Gruppen, which accounts for NOK 2.2 billion of the NOK 5.2 billion in Norwegian seafood sold domestically. He says the company has around 1,000 people working within seafood, including co-workers and part-time students. It was therefore important to have a uniform system all could relate to so that the right information could be passed on to the customer. The other incentive was reducing the amount of people handling the seafood to ensure optimal quality.

“I really think the seafood industry should look at this as a competitive edge,” said Olsen. “It is able to give better information as to where this comes from.”

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