Maritime transport is the backbone of international trade and the global economy. Today, more than 80% of international goods traffic is carried by sea. In most developing countries, the proportion is even significantly higher. Containers with chemicals, such as highly flammable ingredients, must be handled with special care in ports and on ships. If handled and transported improperly, a dangerous goods container can quickly become a serious problem and put people, ships and the environment at serious risk. We all remember with horror the devastating disaster in the port of Beirut in August 2020 or the fire on the X_Press Pearl in May 2021.
Leschaco is therefore always looking for innovation and new technologies to make the transport of dangerous goods safe and transparent. In the summer of 2020, in the middle of the first phase of the pandemic, we met the founders of Aeler Technologies SA. Aeler is a young company and was founded in June 2018 in Lausanne, in Switzerland, by Naïk Londono and David Bauer. Naïk is a neuro-engineer specializing in artificial intelligence methods. David is a microtechnician and learned the intricacies of logistics on a job for a Swiss luxury watch manufacturer. Both are building their startup company with outstanding technological know-how and at the same time great verve. Nearly three-quarters of the team members at Aeler are under the age of 35. And I can say that the cooperation between this young Swiss startup and us, the representatives of a Hanseatic family business with, after all, more than 140 years of tradition, is enormous fun.
Aeler designed a modern container, which was originally designed for the transport of flexitanks. When liquid goods are to be transported in flexible containers rather than in classic tank containers, flexitanks are often used: these are durable, bag-like containers made of rubber or polypropylene fabric that are basically suitable for transporting chemical liquids and liquid foodstuffs in quantities of up to 36,000 liters. The outer walls of the containers must be enormously strong in order to be able to hold these large quantities of liquid – a well-known problem of classic steel containers. However, when it comes to hazardous goods, our Leschaco tank containers are usually the better choice – also from an ecological point of view.
The modern Aeler UNIT ONE is made of composite materials and completely redefines the term container. It is stronger, insulated, intelligent, environmentally friendly and significantly increases the payload. Its passive insulation makes it the ideal solution for transporting and protecting a wide range of sensitive goods. In numbers:
Equipped with a standardized container number and a CSC plate, the Aeler is globally marketable. Currently, only 20-feet Aeler containers are available, but the company is already working on 40- and 45-feet containers.
We were particularly taken with the insulation properties. Some of our dangerous goods are temperature sensitive and we need to protect them from too low or too high temperatures during loading and unloading, but also during transportation. Containers that we transport from Europe to Asia pass through several climate zones: The icy temperatures of the European north alternate with the hot temperatures of the transhipment ports in the Middle East or with the hot and humid climatic conditions in the final destination in Asia. Of course, the dangerous goods could be transported in refrigerated containers, whose insulating properties help prevent damage to the cargo. But the reefer containers are often needed for other cargo, for shipments that rely on active temperature management. This conflict of interest is solved by an Aeler container.
Leschaco and Aeler have joined forces to develop a new version of the Aeler Container for the transport of dangerous goods. As in the case of a classic steel container, lashing rings were fitted at the top and bottom of the container for this purpose, which in turn allow the cargo to be secured in the container for loading and sea transport. Loading on non-slip mats is supported by a composite floor.
But the Aeler container can do much more: its smart unit integrated into the door delivers data to an intuitive platform (Control Tower) that continuously monitors the safety and quality of the transport environment and provides tailored warnings. This smart unit is able to measure and report humidity, external and internal temperature, but also shock behavior during transport. This means that dangerous temperature buildups inside the containers can be detected in good time from the shore side and control or emergency measures can be initiated on the ship or in the port at an early stage.
The container’s GPS also enables flawless location determination under “Day Light” conditions. This is important, given today’s very fragmented maritime logistics, which can pass through many transit stations. A supply chain event management provides information on whether the transport is carried out according to the planning or whether there are interruptions. This is of great importance because with temperature-sensitive hazardous goods, for example, “simply forgetting” a container in the transit port could lead to excessive heating and thus, under certain circumstances, to an explosion. Consequently, the constant monitoring of transport conditions helps to create the safe conditions that are prescribed for dangerous goods and, above all, necessary to protect life, goods and the environment.
However, the Aeler Control Tower not only reflects the transport conditions, but also covers all the necessary data such as optimized container allocation, maintenance and repair, and downtime that efficient fleet management requires. The availability of refrigerated containers is limited, so other, equally safe methods and new technologies must be found to enable the transport of dangerous goods.
The networked containers generate large amounts of data that, supported by AI systems, help the shipping industry in its digital transformation. Dangerous situations are detected in good time and decisions can thus be made more quickly and more soundly.
A digital connection of a bill of lading with an Aeler container allows not only the sharing of information between all parties involved in the transport, but also a faster release in the ports and terminals, thus minimizing risks on the transport route.
At Leschaco, we provide our customers with solutions that meet the stringent requirements of dangerous goods transportation, are economically and environmentally sound, and are ethically correct. In Aeler, we have found a partner who accompanies us and our customers on this path reliably and with state-of-the-art innovations. With Swiss precision.