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The structural adoption of cold chain logistics has been procedurally implemented sine the 1950’s, however, with the upsurge of innovative technologies and adaptive digitization, the cold chain has begun to employ an entirely new methodology. Active versus passive. But what’s the difference?

Active cold chain logistics utilizes specified equipment such as envirotainers to dynamically and continuously force cold air in and around the product being shipped. Passive cold chain logistics implements submissive conjunctions such as dry ice in insulated boxes to mitigate spoilage or other risks involved in moving temperature sensitive shipments.

Cold chain logistics refers to the technology and strategic processes implemented to safely and securely transport temperature sensitive shipments on an end-to-end basis.

Prior to the integration of structural cold chain logistics, procedures where primarily managed in-house. Now there are options. Deciding the most beneficial route to take could mean the difference between product implementation and product destruction.

Choosing the Right Cold Chain Logistics Solution

As with most decisions involving the transport and successful shipment of a product, a myriad of questions must be thoroughly answered before a proactive and strategic decision can be set in motion. Regarding the indistinctive choice between active and passive cold chains, the checklist is no different and is generally summarized as follows:

1. Does this product have a risk profile? What is it?

2. Do you have a budget set in place allowing for a safe and successful transport?

3. Is this a regular shipment with minor risks involved in the upside of your business?

4. Is this a brand-new product launch with inherent and detrimental risks tied to the success of this shipment?

The nuanced complexities faced in logistics on a comprehensive scale are only heightened in cold chain transportation management. When a product or shipment is temperature controlled, then Customs delays, bad weather, international disasters, and industry laborers are all subjectivities connected to the end quality and hopeful functionality of the product in question.

Partnering with an international transportation management team with expertise that span all viable possibilities within the supply chain model is vital to the successful completion and delivery of your temperature-controlled shipment. Being prepared for anything that could possibly go wrong conversely increases the chances of having a solution and a plan for anything that could arise.

As previously stated, there are two options for temperature-controlled shipment packaging: active or passive.

Now, how do you choose?

Simple. Answer the first two questions outlined above. What is the risk profile of the product, and are you willing to pay extra to ensure safety and product conservation?

Budget aside, the safest choice resides in active containers (envirotainers). While the initial spend may appear higher, end cost analysis will show surprising symmetry when all risks and cost considerations are compared.

Click HERE to compare active versus passive cold chain cost analysis for free. View different solutions to guarantee your business is making the best transportation decision.

Cost Considerations

Per strategic integration of any transportation or business model, being fully aware of all variables is vital to implementation and future scalability of any kind. Upon mitigation phases of your business’s cold chain logistics, weigh the following cost components:

· Will you need to invest in purchasing an active container or will you lease one for every shipment needed?

· Purchasing / insuring refrigerants: Will your company purchase dry ice or other necessary cooling materials beforehand or will you have those sourced through your forwarder? Regardless, cost will increase here.

· Temperature controlling technologies: These particular sensors will only be needed to ensure the temperature of passive shipments as this technology is already integrated within most active containers.

· Handling labor and preparation production: Structuring, preparing, and maintaining (if necessary) the packaging or container unit

· Mode of transportation: A combination of trucking, air, and / or ocean freight solutions

· Cost to discard packaging materials at destination

There are more costs that can arise at any time during a shipment, but these are the constants. Properly prepare for these while also building in a buffer for any unforeseen circumstances.

Vaccine Cold Chain Logistics

Vaccine supply chain regulation requires strategic planning to seamlessly maneuver around any irregularities.

Each logistical stage comes with its own challenges. CLN utilizes a combination of visibility and technology to mitigate the risks and wade through the nuances involved.

COVID vaccine’s cold chain logistics will, no doubt, be complex in nature.

UPDATE: Pfizer’s COVID vaccine will need to be continuously stored at minus 112 degrees. This has initiated a bulk buy and chain reaction of dry ice to be used in the passive cold chain logistics of transporting the vaccine.

Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine comes with less restrictive temperature requirements – and “is stable at regular refrigerator temperatures for 30 days and is able to be held at room temperature for up to 12 hours took the edge off the urgency.” [USA Today]

Protecting Temperature-Controlled Shipments – The Bottom Line

When it comes to the overall deliverable usability of your product, collaborating with an International Transportation Management team who thoroughly understands the transit nuances and plausible scenarios of temperature-controlled products is critically undervalued within the industry.

Temperature ranges [as per source]

· “Passive (for temperatures ranging between +2 degrees C to +8 degrees C, +15 degrees C to +25 degrees C) is designed for insulated shipments pre-packaged with dry ice or cold packs, which can accept minor temperature fluctuations and do not require transportation or storage in active temperature-controlled units.

· Active (for temperatures ranging between -20 degrees C to +25 degrees C) is designed for temperature-sensitive commodities stored and transported in active temperature-controlled units.”

Still having trouble narrowing in on the exact cold chain method best suited for your product transportation? Set up beta tests. Send your product both ways – analyze the results, compare costs, issues, and time constraints.

Once you have a solid set of shipments to draw intelligent and accurate sampling from, then you can optimize your business’s cold chain supply chain and international movements.


We are well aware of the continuous complexities that constantly arise during the cold chain process of moving temperature sensitive materials and have expertise in areas ranging from temperature control, customs and compliance, to distribution, legal and finance. Cold chain logistics can be a labyrinth. One question leads to three others. Our team will help you through the maze.

As a cross-functional team of logistics and international business experts, we help clients navigate all areas of global trade and transportation. Our focus is not on an individual product group or service offering but rather a comprehensive approach to effectively managing and optimizing the entire supply chain. We offer a complete range of end-to-end logistics services that are customized and tailored to meet the specific requirements of our clients.

If you are unaware of how to streamline or further optimize your current cold chain transports, or have specific questions on how to properly implement a strategy, reach out to us HERE today for a free consultation. We look forward to chatting with you!

CLN Worldwide

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