Port of Philly: “The Baltimore situation will have no impact on our fruit capacity”

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Port of Philly: “The Baltimore situation will have no impact on our fruit capacity”

A cargo ship leaving the Port of Baltimore crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26, causing its collapse, the deaths of 6 people, and widespread speculation over its impact on other East Coast ports. 

While the Port of Baltimore does not handle large produce volumes, the fact that ships will now have to reroute to other East Coast ports raised many questions about the capacity to handle the additional cargo. 

Dominic O'Brien, senior marketing manager at the Port of Philadelphia, a major port for produce imports in the U.S., told FreshFruitPortal.com that they have already received additional ships and are expecting more. 

He said they have experience with the type of cargo being diverted and they are completely confident they will be able to handle it, without altering other operations.

At PhillyPort, 54% of the containers they handle are refrigerated, establishing itself as the go-to port for produce. 

The Delaware River port community encompasses three separate entities, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Among the three, they account for $6.6 billion in total food imports, with fruits and vegetables accounting for more than $4 billion of that total. 

Related article: Baltimore rescue continues, as distributors navigate new East Coast routes

“In some cases, if, for example, New York or Virginia, which are bigger ports, are already on a service, they’re just going to offload more there,” he said. 

For most services, the larger ports can unload more goods there, meaning the ship does not have to stop in Philadelphia. 

For the automobile sector, one of the largest categories for the Port of Baltimore, O’Brien said they're not expecting a big flood of additional cars. 

Fruits and vegetables

The Port of Philly gives priority to fruits and vegetables, receiving large shipments from the west coast of South America. 

“There will be no negative impacts on our produce shipments from any diversion,” he said. “We have dealt with cargo surges in the past, and we do a better job on produce than anybody, so we are confident to maintain the supply chain going.”

O’Brien said they are very excited because last month they received their largest ship ever, the CMA-CGM Marco Polo, a 16,000 TEU ship. The model is the largest type of container ship that can land in the U.S. East Coast. 

The ship was scheduled to go through the Suez Canal and pick up clementines in Morocco. However, the conflict in the Red Sea meant the ship had to go south around South Africa.

“With the opening of this seasonal service, we are optimistic we are going to get a lot more fruit in the future,” O’Brien said. 

He added that, since this route starts in China, it can open opportunities for frozen fruits and vegetables from East Asia in the future. 

New ocean carriers from South America in Port of Philly

O’Brien shared that members of the Cosco Shipping Lines company intend to start a new service from the west coast of South America to Philadelphia. 

The details of this new route are still not public, but he expects the service to start soon. 

“I don’t know much details, but it will probably go from Chile, Peru, and Ecuador with fruits up to Philadelphia,” he said. 

This means that now the top 5 global shipping companies will have operations in the Port of Philly.

On April 4th, The USDA provided guidance to importers of agricultural shipments bound for the Baltimore Seaport, check the information here

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