The Port of Virginia is now a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Southeast In-Transit Cold Treatment Pilot program designed to import fresh fruit to U.S. East Coast ports from South America.

“This designation is important for logistics and supply chain managers importing agricultural products because it means shorter total transit times from origin to market,” John Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority, said in a news release. He said the program will diversify the port’s cargo mix.

“It opens the door for new cargo and provides an important service for owners and shippers of perishables,” he said in the release.

Under the terms of the pilot, entry of in-transit, cold-treated containers of agricultural products originating in South America are allowed. The list of potential commodities, according to the release, are blueberries, citrus, and grapes, apples and pears from Peru, Uruguay and Argentina.

Prior to the program’s start in 2013, the perishables were required to enter Northeastern ports for cold treatment and clearance and were then transported to southern states for distribution into stores.

Reinhart said in the release that beneficiaries include shippers, who will see lower transportation costs and a longer shelf-life for products. Environmental benefits will be achieved with reduced emissions related to transportation.

The USDA Southeast In-transit Cold Treatment Pilot enables a limited number of containerized cargoes to enter the port directly after completing a two-week cold treatment process as a safeguard against fruit flies and other pests, as well as acquiring all the required unloading clearances prior to the shipment’s arrival in port.

Containers that don’t pass cold treatment will be prohibited from entering the port and will not be offloaded from vessels, according to the release, and instead be allowed transit via sea to a Northeastern port for re-treatment, or they will be re-exported to the country of origin.