Florida East Coast Industries' Flagler Global Logistics (FGL) is an integrated logistics company in the U.S. that is committed to cargo management services, including multimodal transport and foreign trade, with refrigerated cargo capacity and supply chain administration solutions.
Located next to the Miami International Airport, FGL's new fumigation chamber facilities in its South Florida Logistics Center (SFLC) - approved and certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) - offer an alternative for all products that require methyl bromide fumigation at destination, such as grapes and blueberries.
With a direct connection to PortMiami and Port Everglads by rail, this center allows for a reduction in delivery times, bringing integrity to cold chain integrity to increase the shelf life of perishable products.
FGL's vice president of business development and logistics operations, Victor González, said one of the motives behind the implementation of bromide fumigation chambers is that grapes traditionally have entered through Philadelphia, where fruit would then travel by land to the south or other distribution points.
"In many ways, for the southeastern states of the U.S. this is illogical, because it costs a lot more to move by land from north to south than from south to north," González said.
"We have four chambers. The fumigation capacity is 378 pallets and we want to have two fumigations per day. The daily capacity is 756 pallets, which is about 39 containers.
"When they arrive, the containers open toward the inside [of the cold storage]. We take the fruit from the container and load the chambers. Afterwards, these are closed and the fumigation process begins.
"Why is this so different? Because from the moment the container arrives, all the cold chain management is monitored and controlled by us. It is very different in any other place."
González mentioned that Miami had the issue of humidity and heat, which were variables that created condensation.
"We eliminate that because we manage temperature from the when the container arrives to the center. When it [the container] opens, it is already exposed to a regulated temperature," he said.
"The most important thing is maintaining the product temperature at a stable level, or so that there aren't any major rises or drops in the temperature. This system has the ability to do that, keeping the temperature in a more stable range," added Manny Fernández, Flagler's executive vice president of logistical operations.
In terms of products like lemons, Fernández emphasized the system eliminated the condensation produced in the fruit, drying the lemon inside the chamber to be fumigated later.
"When you have a regulated infrastructure like we have, you have a useful benefit for the fruit and in the end this is the most important," added González, who pointed out that the commodities directed to fumigation are blueberries, grapes, lemons and kiwifruit.
The fumigation process, depending on the product, lasts between five to seven hours. Active fumigation takes place in the first two to three hours, where the bromide is dispersed inside the chamber. After that the aeration process begins, which takes place in FGL's chambers through a bromide recapture system.
"We recapture from 95-98% of the bromide. This system is very clean and favorable to the ozone. Everything is recaptured with filters and what we release into the environment is just a small percentage of 2-4%," González said, adding that the system differentiates itself through its use of container fans.
"When the chamber's bromide has already been released, in that moment we turn the refrigeration on again. With three hours left for the product to complete its protocol, we have already started to lower the fruit's temperature. This is a tremendous benefit that no one can do at the moment.
Once the fruit is released, the inspectors assigned by different companies can proceed to revise the product's quality, determine rejections, and so forth.
After the new requirements for Chilean blueberry exports to the U.S., which now must be fumigated at destination, FGL's facilities bring an alternative for Chilean growers and exporters.
"We have been doing a campaign for a few months, primarily with grape exporters. We started to do a commercial campaign with blueberries that intensified when the issue of fumigation came up.
"For us it is very important as a company that the Chilean market knows we are a neutral company, that we want to work with exporters, importers and retailers because we are offering a service that is essentially for the industry, more than for particular clients.
"We have a unique capacity to provide this service to exporters and we have the ability to make a direct connection between Chilean suppliers and the U.S. market, within or outside existing channels. We have the capacity to serve all types of programs, giving the grower or exporter the best access to the U.S. market."
Flagler Global Logistics delivers a vertical service, focused not just on fumigation, but also providing storage, packing, transport and technical assistance services.
"We have consultants who work for us who are recognized in the U.S., who advise many of the large U.S. retailers," González said.
"We can give an individual service or an integrated service. We can receive the product, do re-packing, and take it where the client needs," added Fernández.
They may have clients with their own refrigerated storage in Miami who say, we just want to fumigate with you', so we can give them this service. There could be another who says, 'I want everything - that you fumigate, do customs, that you pick them up in the port and that you serve me as a distribution center'. We can do everything," González said.
"The only thing we are not doing today is trading fruit," he emphasized.
FGL is currently establishing local commercial agents to attend to the market in countries such as Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Costa Rica.