Seafood fails to ship

A freeze on profits

During the 2010 eruption, Eyjafjallajökull's plume cast an eerie darkness over Iceland, where streetlights continued to shine throughout the day. Sævaldsson wore a face mask to keep abrasive ash particles from irritating his throat and lungs. "It was a terrible feeling to live under the ash cloud," he recalls.

Icelandic fishermen and seafood processors faced more than just personal hardships. Those who supplied fresh cod, haddock and other local seafood to overseas buyers encountered significant economic consequences when Eyjafjallajökull disrupted transportation.

Freezing the fresh inventory to avoid spoilage reduced prices by up to 20 percent in overseas wholesale markets and required additional energy, labor and materials costs.

With everything factored in, fresh fish lost about 30 percent of its value when repackaged as frozen, Sævaldsson says.

The president of one Icelandic seafood company estimated the losses at nearly $38,000 per day when fresh fish couldn’t reach eager overseas wholesalers.

Customer satisfaction took a hit, too. “From the perspective of buyers in the United Kingdom and United States, customers were waiting for the product, and they didn’t understand why problems in Iceland meant they couldn’t buy their fresh fish,” Sævaldsson says.

What if global supply chains could be more transparent and predictable?

To avoid the chaotic ripple effect of world events, supply chains must become more intelligent and respond to challenges and opportunities in real time. Cognitive tools can identify hidden insights and learn from data to become more intelligent over time.

So whether there's a volcanic eruption or a labor dispute at a key cargo airline, Icelandic seafood companies and their shipping partners may be able to use emerging technology to find alternative cold-storage networks to deliver fresh fish to overseas markets.