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Perfect climate in duty-free warehouse

Perfect climate in duty-free warehouse
To ensure it is able to meet high standards in Quality and security, Ports Francs et Entrepôts de Genève SA inaugurated its new warehouse in 2014. It was specially designed to store valuables in accordance with the requirements of insurers. To establish the necessary climatic conditions, temperature and humidity transmitters from the Zurich-based company Rotronic were installed to enable control of the optimum storage climate.

But first a little history. A free port is originally a Transit zone in a harbor in which it is possible to discharge, store, convey, re-ship or temporarily hold goods in expectation of importing them. Payment of the customs duties and taxes is suspended and eventually effected in the country in which the goods are consumed or used.

A delivery under the free port regime is equated with an export from a country of origin and the value added tax of this country can be reimbursed immediately. There are free ports on all continents. They promote the movement of goods, and therefore also trade and ultimately the economy as a whole. Most European countries have one or more free ports allowing storage for a certain period of time.

1000 commercial premises in La Praille

There are currently 10 duty-free warehouses in Switzerland, with the one in Geneva being the most important. Duty-free warehouses are usually located near national borders and the country's second-largest airport. In contrast to most other countries, there is no time limit for storage in Swiss duty-free warehouses for goods not stemming from Switzerland. In 1888 the canton parliament approved the establishment of the operating company Ports Francs de Genève SA, which was later renamed to Ports Francs et Entrepôts de Genève (PFEG).

There are almost 1000 commercial premises of all sizes available in la Praille. The type of goods stored in duty-free warehouses has changed immensely over the years. The strong development in the art and wine market has given rise to special security and Quality requirements concerning, in the first instance, storage conditions (temperature, hygrometry, lack of vibrations). The new warehouse building, designed in collaboration with specialized contractors, was inaugurated in 2014. The building, which serves mainly to store valuables such as antiques, works of art and wine, is the result of close cooperation between various specialists in security issues, insurance, energy and architecture as well as the users. The numerous elements listed in the requirement specification included the important point of climatic conditions temperature and humidity) in the building’s storage rooms.

Like in our wine cellars
To ensure a high standard of quality and security, Ports Francs et Entrepôts de Genève SA approached the Zurich-based company Rotronic AG in Bassersdorf through its contractors. “We need precise and stable measuring instruments,” says technical director Marc Golay. The building concerned is equipped not only with a ventilation and air-conditioning System (humidity and temperature), but also with a central management system of the type MSR (measuring, control, regulation). The building is divided into two large parts. The first is for storage of wine in accordance with applicable regulations (70% humidity, 13°C), as in the cellars of our forefathers. The second part is reserved for sensitive and valuable goods, primarily paintings (55% humidity, 21°C). “Since it was one of the main aspects of the building concept, we also wanted to have the possibility to trace the climatic conditions during storage.” This very functional location enables arrival of the goods by road with a loading platform and direct access to the premises. Equipment rooms, escape routes, freight elevators, elevators and sanitary facilities round off the building.

« We wanted a system able to maintain a constant level of humidity and a constant temperature everywhere and at any time of the year. To ensure control and logging of these parameters, we opted for the measuring instruments from Rotronic », adds Marc Golay.

227 Rotronic transmitters
Depending on the storage area of the goods, it is not always easy to check whether ventilation and air replacement are working effectively everywhere. This resulted in the idea of distributing 227 Rotronic Transmitters of the type HF135-AB1X around the complete premises (see box). The instruments are monitored remotely by a system of the type MSR from the Geneva manufacturers EnerBat – a specialist in the technical and energetic monitoring of buildings and installations – which checks daily that the temperature and humidity requirements are being met. 

Since the building was designed to guarantee the best storage conditions, it does not have any windows so that the climatic conditions can be kept as stable as possible. To improve security for protection and prevention of fires, all stores are equipped with a common, dedicated gas extinguishing system (cocktail on nitrogen basis). This method of smothering the fire leads to a reduction in the oxygen level without risk to any people who might still be in the building. This level corresponds to an oxygen content as found in high mountain regions (at about 6000 meters above sea level).

The importance of the measuring Equipment
Why was Rotronic preferred over other companies? “It is a company with an excellent reputation that takes action immediately when necessary. It is extremely important that the probes work reliably and accurately as they deliver all the information on the elimatic conditions in the building,” explains the technical director. Thus the importance of the measurements.