Traditional perishable cargoes, such as bananas, Chilean fruit and summertime citrus continue to help the Ports of the Delaware River flourish, according to Leo Holt, president of Holt Logistics.
But in a July 1 interview with The Produce News, Holt highlighted some new developments which are enhancing the port. These include flowers and a new rail service to Canada.
He noted that in recent years, steamships bearing fresh Colombian flowers and Peruvian asparagus have set course for Philadelphia.
Holt noted that 20,000 air containers of Colombian flowers are annually air lifted to Miami. Likewise, the Peruvian asparagus program into Miami is similar in size. Most of the volume ends up being trucked to the largest consumer market in the northeast. But supply chains are changing. He said that air cargo prices are determined in large part by jets’ “belly space” availability. With the Covid-19 crisis, flights globally and from Colombia have been scaled back. Air container prices rose and, thus, Colombian flower exporters’ demand for sea freight heightened.
To Philadelphia, this is a six-day voyage, which is sufficient for flower “varietals with good genetics.”
Hamburg-Sud initially carried the expensive, perishable Colombian cargo to Philadelphia. Now MSC, Sealand and Hapag-Lloyd are involved; “especially now with skyrocketing air cargo rates.”
Peruvian asparagus has seen similar supply chain issues. Just recently, a large importer of asparagus did successful ocean trials into the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal. Philadelphia’s geographic position in the Keystone State has always been a benefit to this seaport. As the central point between New York, New England, the Mid-Atlantic States, Montreal and the Midwest, the port is within an eight-hour truck ride of a large part of continent’s population.
This benefit is certainly significant to the shippers, said Eric Holt, chief commercial officer of Holt Logistics Corp. Eric Holt noted that Philadelphia has been receiving five to ten containers of South American flowers per week, but this could soon be 50 to 100 per week with a blink of eye. Thus, for a 12-month commodity, growth to “5,000 containers a year is very achievable as shippers become more comfortable with the concept.”
The Holt family’s Greenwich Terminals LLC is the operator of Philadelphia’s Packer Avenue Marine Terminal (PAMT), which is owned by PhilaPort, part of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. PAMT is a sophisticated container port, located a short distance south of downtown Philadelphia.
The PAMT is adjacent to CSX rail yard, which this year has enjoyed new service by CN Rail, with a two-day delivery for refrigerated ocean containers to Montreal and Toronto. Eric Holt indicated this addition to Philadelphia’s maritime business “is functioning well. …As fuel prices go up, you will see this as even a better option.” Part of the rail service’s success is that some truckers fear being delayed at the Canadian border because of Covid-related matters.
The 2020 Chilean deal
The volume of Chile’s seasonal fresh grape shipments to Philadelphia-area ports was “decent,” Holt added. It was very slow to start due to climatic issues Chile, which the country has experienced for a few years. At Holt’s Gloucester Marine Terminal in Gloucester City, NJ, Chilean grape volume was down about eight or nine percent. Looking at the future, however, there is a trend toward investment in new varietals being added to Chile’s categories’ mix. Holt said, “We hope to see Chile build on a good market this year, with more volume in the future.”
Holt credits the Mediterranean Shipping Company and Cool Carriers for both operating with great efficiency in serving the Chilean business into the Packer Avenue Mariner Terminal and the Gloucester Marine Terminal. “They had very good on-time-delivery and a high utilization of assets. It was almost perfect.”
He credits the lines’ understanding of the steamship business, as well as that of the shippers and importers and the logistics needs behind the importation requirements for grapes.
South African citrus
South African summer citrus made the season’s first arrivals at the Gloucester Terminal on June 19. Citrus from the Western Cape “is going very well with high consumer demand for quality products with Vitamin C. We are discharging the second vessel now, just in time for the Independence Day celebrations,” Holt said July 1.
The future for summertime citrus from South Africa, as well as Chile and Peru, is very bright, he emphasized.
Holt is also keeping an eye on South Africa’s Eastern Cape production zones. They await final USDA clearance to start exports to the United States. Holt said Eastern Cape citrus growers have passed all requisite USDA phytosanitary requirements.
Holt credits South African citrus for being “reasonably priced, healthy, high quality, and great taste.”
The Packer Avenue Marine Terminal
A couple years ago, Pennsylvania appropriated $190 million to boost Philadelphia’s port facilities. Along with the PhilaPort, private funds of an additional $65 million were also invested. “This is a true public-private partnership, Holt said. The large investment “over the last two years is paying off.” Holt said private and public investments have “probably made it the most efficient port in the country,” in terms on container discharge productivity and gate turn times. “These are key metrics for steamship lines, truckers, and importers.”
The investments included five new cranes, three new berths and electrification of the facility, which boosts sustainability. Other improvements, Holt noted, are warehouse replacement off dock, optical character reader technology in gates and cranes, GPS and RFID technology in yard to match, and new reefer monitoring system for 2,400 reefer plugs. Of all the investments, Holt said the new Customs & Border Protection-Agriculture and USDA inspection building has made the biggest impact.
“It is functioning very well. The government inspectors love it.” Holt invested $6 million to build a new USDA agricultural quarantine inspection facility at PAMT. “This has paid dividends in flow-through, dwell times are down, and customer satisfaction is high,” he said. “We thank our local government partners in helping achieve all we have accomplished in 2020.”
Gloucester Marine Terminal improvements
Leo Holt said that Holt Logistics is spending $32 million in capital investments in its own facility improvements this year. Such investment is typical. These include wharf upgrades, crane refurbishments, and electrification.
One notable change to be completed by the end of 2020, which includes Holt facilities serving Del Monte and Fyffes, are remote check in kiosks that will take port truck traffic management “to a new level.”
Arriving drivers will check in at kiosks similar to check-in stands for airport travelers.
A new app will soon efficiently direct truck drivers to maximize port movement. This will minimize precious driving time for drivers, while giving them “a good experience.”
By The Produce News