11.1 Traditional Boxes and Containers
11.2 Other Boxes/Containers
11.3 Suitability and Availability of Local Materials for Boxes and Baskets

11.3.1 Availability of local materials
11.3.2 Suitability of local materials

11.4 Spoilage Due to Lack of Adequate Packing and Handing Facilities

11.5 Introduction of Insulated Containers in Developing Countries

In general in developing countries there is a confusing situation with a great variety of boxes and baskets being used in the fishing industry. This mixture of traditional local containers with modern plastic and aluminium boxes presents great difficulty for handling systems.

11.1 Traditional Boxes and Containers

Usually the availability of raw materials, quantities of fish landed and level of fishing operation are the factors which determine the types of containers which prevail in various regions/countries. The following types of traditional containers are most common. but great variations occur:


These types of boxes/baskets come in different sizes varying from one area to another, but in general they will hold anything from around 1 kg of fish up to 60-70 kg. No standard measurements can be given.

Fig. 25 Two types of traditional fish baskets used for fish (Africa and Asia)

11.2 Other Boxes/Containers

Boxes and containers of various types and materials are found in developing countries.

The degree of use and standardization are decided by the importance of the fishing industry in the national economy and the direct contact with industrialized fishing nations.

In general containers used fall into the following groups:


Sizes vary a great deal. but some plastic fish boxes follow the international standards (see Section 5.4), while in other cases any available box (bread, milk, etc.), will be used. Most uninsulated containers will take from 5 up to 70-80 kg, while the insulated ones range in size from a capacity of a few kg up to
20-30 t.

11.3 Suitability and Availability of Local Materials or Boxes and Baskets

11.3.1 Availability of local materials

The availability of raw materials for traditional baskets/boxes is in most cases sufficient as long as the demand does not increase dramatically. In some places the supply of the right type of wooden boards for boxes might cause problems, but this is more a planning and ordering problem than real shortage.

11.3.2 Suitability of local materials

Most local materials with the exception of wood can only be regarded as suitable for non-returnable or short lived returnable units.

The way these materials have been used and the traditional handling of boxes/baskets have created a reputation of the material not being hygienic. Also most traditional materials with the exception of wood are weaker and less durable than plastic and metals.

Since traditional materials most often are available within easy reach of box/container producers and the production quite often contributes significantly to the local industry, it is important that the use of traditional containers is not disregarded completely. Instead, with a more thorough approach to design and possible improvements, such units could be used with great advantages for the fishing industry. Improvements which could easily be achieved would be:

The only traditional material for which accurate information is available is wood (Table 6) .

In many places boxes and containers made from local materials are readily available in sufficient quantities and at reasonable prices, while modern fish boxes/baskets are costly and difficult to find. This means that if hygienic standards and other practical aspects could be improved on, the fishing industry would have less problems.

The following Table 24 gives a summary of the suitability of various local materials.

11.4 Spoilage Due to Lack of Adequate Packing and Handling Facilities

The rate of spoilage and quality deterioration is often quite high in most developing countries.

Spoilage losses range from 15% up to more than 30% and the two most significant contributing factors are poor handling and inadequate chilling.

Use of suitable boxes/baskets during the handling process and special containers for transport and storage will undoubtedly contribute to improved quality and reduced spoilage.

Improved fish handling methods should involve:

Table 24 Suitability of local materials for fish boxes/baskets


Suitability for
various types of fish





Possible improvements


Leaf baskets a/

Small fish




Empty - poor
to fair
Full - poor



Fibre baskets b/

Medium sized
and small fish

(few reuses)

Poor to fair

First use good.
Further use as
accord. to treatment

Empty - fair Full - poor

Standardization, improved shape, size and strength. Improved hygienic standard by cleaning and use of lining.


Wooden boxes

Large, medium
sized and small

(many reuses)

Fair to good

First use good.
Further use as
according to treatment

Empty - poor Full - good

Standardization. Surface treatment (paint). Improved hygiene standard by cleaning


a/ Leaves from palm tree. banana plant, etc.
b/ Fibres from bamboo and various other plants

11.5 Introduction of Insulated Containers in Developing Countries

Insulated containers have a wide range of applications and come in various types from the more sophisticated types with refrigeration machinery to simple types used with ice.

The more advanced units are used in long distance transportation and international marketing. Generally it will be the transport distance and the capacity of the marketing industry which will decide the usefulness of such containers. Details on standardized containers are given in Chapter 6.

For the less advanced fishing industry, simple custom made insulated containers for iced fish will offer an inexpensive solution if one wants to introduce improved fish handling at critical stages.

The following areas will achieve the greatest advantages from introduction of adapted insulated containers:

-Small vessels:

It is possible to arrange built-in or removable insulated containers in most small vessels. Care should be taken not to upset stability with such installations. An example is shown in Fig. 26.

Figure 26 Insulated hold in small vessel

Section of small fishing boat with insulated container for catch

-Road transport:

Insulated containers are widely used in conjunction with trucks, trains and ships, but in many countries a significant amount of fish is transported over short distances on bicycles and handcarts and often in uninsulated boxes/baskets. Light weight insulated containers can easily be made to suit such vehicles and would introduce a possibility for improvement in fish quality.

-Retail market:

Retail sale of fresh fish requires space for display and storage. Storage can be arranged by use of insulated containers with ice. This will offer an inexpensive alternative which can keep fish in excellent condition for more than a week.

Such equipment will be within financial reach of small-scale retail businessmen who cannot afford any other refrigerated equipment.

Simple containers used for iced storage must have a smooth accessible interior that can be easily cleaned. The lid should also be insulated, well sealed and positioned in the top. It is important that the container has a drainage opening at the lowest point of bottom. 5-10 cm of styrofoam insulation material will give sufficient protection and GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic), various types of plastic sheeting, aluminium, galvanized steel

and wood (marine plywood and timber) can be used as construction material.

It is important that insulation material is distributed evenly through all parts of the box and that the inside which is going to be in direct contact with the fish is made, from hygienic and non-toxic material