Port improvements should boost fresh produce movement - The Packer

Port improvements should boost fresh produce movement

09/08/2009 04:20:26 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

Ron Carkoski, president and chief executive officer of Four Seasons Produce Inc., Ephrata, said the planned port improvements should help boost produce imports.

“It will allow ships to be loaded differently and at more reasonable costs,” he said. “Exporters will be able to disperse freight in vessels across more containers. The opportunity with that product continues as well. It’s not something that seems to have decreased in any kind of demand.”

Four Seasons, through its Earth Source Trading entity, imports a wealth of Southern Hemisphere product, including Chilean grapes, lemons and soft fruit, Peru blueberries and onions, Argentinean pears, and New Zealand apples and pears through multiple Northeastern ports including Port Elizabeth and Wilmington, Del.

Miami-based Turbana Corp. relocated its import warehouse operations from Bridgeport, Conn., to the Port of Philadelphia during the spring of 2008.

Turbana uses Pier 82 to unload refrigerated containers of bananas, pineapples, vegetables and other tropicals shipped from Columbia and Costa Rica.

Movement at the port has been on the upswing, said James Haas, port manager for Turbana’s Philadelphia operation.

“We are experiencing the growth we anticipated when we came to Philadelphia, but because of industry supply, the fruit isn’t there,” Haas said. “We are moving more product through our facility here than we were able to do in Connecticut.”

Turbana has improved its port warehousing operations by installing a shore- side crane that more efficiently unloads containers and pallets versus using cranes installed on the ships. Turbana also installed a cooler humidification and racking system that properly hydrates the fruit.

Though Turbana used dock workers that were skilled in unloading fruit, logistics, Haas said, were a little difficult during Turbana’s first year.  However, Turbana’s Philadelphia operations and productivity, he said, have since improved.

To improve logistics, Turbana had Horizon Stevedoring Inc. recently install a container stacking system.

Previously, Turbana had to ground the containers and leave others on costly chassis taking up valuable space. The reefer bank allows Turbana to stack 112 containers four high and four deep, Haas said.

Pinto Bros. Inc. buys the keitt variety mango from Puerto Rico from importers.

“We are the only ones in this area doing Puerto Rican mangos, mangos that are from the U.S.,” said Todd Penza, a Pinto salesman. “I would eat a keitt variety over a tommy atkins variety any day of the year.”

On the river dredging project, Maxwell said he hopes the project can get started soon and not drag on for years.

The deepening project traces its roots to 1983, when the U.S. Congress directed the Army Corps to study modifying the existing main shipping channel. A feasibility study that included numerous environmental and economic studies commenced in 1987 and approved the project to Congress, which in 1992 gave its authorization. Environmental groups have fought the expansion for years.

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