by Veronica Brezina-Smith
Originally published in Tampa Bay Business Journal on Sept 26, 2018
For the first time, Port Tampa Bay is housing Costa Rican pineapples in its new on-dock cold storage facility.
Port Logistics Refrigerated Services, which operates the state-of-the-art cold storage facility, received its first shipment of the pineapples on Sept. 22, according to a port announcement.
Seacat Line delivered the refrigerated containers of fresh pineapples for customer Chestnut Hill Farms. The pineapples were shipped from the Port of Moin, Costa Rica to Port Tampa Bay aboard the new vessel M/V Juice Express.
“This will be a bi-weekly service. It will go on for years and years to come. It’s the first direct call we’ve had from Costa Rica. It’s what we’ve been looking for,” Port Logistics Refrigerated Services COO Rick Sharp told the Tampa Bay Business Journal.
The port expects to see 20 to 30 container loads of pineapples every two weeks. “With Florida being a consumption state and not a producer, this makes us very competitive,” Sharp said.
The new produce and business relationships may help Port Tampa Bay compete with others in the state like Port Everglades, which is currently the state leader in perishables, according to the port’s website. It moves nearly half of all the ocean-shipped refrigerated containers in Florida. Its cold treatment program allows once-restricted grapes and blueberries from Peru and Uruguay to come into South Florida ports and has expanded to include citrus from Peru and apples and pears from Argentina.
However, Sharp explained that Port Tampa Bay has a great advantage as many growers and distributors consider restrictions when it comes to the delivery of produce. Restrictions such as those exist for truck drivers.
“Every mile they [truck drivers] drive is captured on electronic logging devices. They can only drive 11 hours a day, meaning they can no longer drive from South Florida to out of state. It takes too long.”
From Port Tampa Bay, companies are able to have their products delivered out of state to big markets such as Atlanta and Charlotte.
The port has been working on building a strong relationship with Latin America especially since in February, when the port saw the first large shipment of Chiquita bananas from Ecuador that were also loaded into the 135,000-square-foot, on-dock cold storage facility. Chiquita Brands International is one of the largest banana producers in the world and a major supplier of bananas in North America and Europe.
“We’ve been working strongly with Mexico. We’ve been receiving mangos, limes. We hosted a big delegation from Mexico last week,” Sharp said.
He said about 140 people who act as growers and shippers from Mexico toured the port in mid-September and were impressed with the facility and the port’s relationship with U.S. Customs.
“We see this [the Chestnut Hill Farms pineapple shipment] being a stepping stone for the port to be seriously recognized in this industry,” Sharp said, explaining how people are seeing how the port is establishing the supply chain.
Sharp said the port is also looking at Peru, Argentina and Guatemala for opportunities.