( Courtesy Port of Savannah )

The Port of Savannah, Ga., has added East-West routes to its chilled produce business, with new services to Europe and Asia.

The port serves as a gateway for perishable products after joining the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Southeast In-Transit Cold Treatment Pilot Program, according to a news release. Before, the port received produce from Chile, Peru, Uruguay and Argentina that had been cold treated. Now the port serves all of South America, with the ability to import from Spain, Morocco and Italy.

“This is an exciting development that opens Savannah as a new option for growers around the world to reach the U.S. Southeast with greater speed and efficiency,” Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch said in the release. “Georgia's central location means shorter overland routes to inland markets, allowing time-sensitive cargo to reach customers faster, fresher and at lower cost.”

Proximity to large cities like Atlanta and Memphis sets the port up as a hub for refrigerated produce, according to the release. Ships call on the port 35 times a week.

Earlier this year, Americold Realty Trust, which owns and operates temperature-controlled facilities and infrastructure, acquired PortFresh Holdings, which serves the fresh produce industry primarily through the Port of Savannah.

“We've got kiwis on the water, and we are getting our first few containers in from Morocco now,” Ken Burke, vice president of client relations at PortFresh, said in the release. “We're gearing up to handle very heavy business starting with the summer citrus program from Chile and Peru, and for next season, the Spanish and Moroccan produce will really start to come online.”

Savannah can handle time-sensitive items like asparagus, previously shipped as air cargo, but now delivered in containers to the port, according to the release.

“Not only can we now handle produce that has undergone cold treatment while in transit, Savannah also has a local facility certified to perform re-treatment should that prove necessary,” Cliff Pyron, Georgia Ports Authority chief commercial officer, said in the release.

A variety of fruit comes through the port, including blueberries, mangoes, apples, pineapples, grapes, bananas and avocados, according to the release.

PortFresh has 100,000 square feet for chilled produce storage, and Americold plans to add an additional facility with 37,000 pallet positions, according to the release.