Ports play a crucial role in the fruit trade. Bananas, apples and kiwifruit and other fruit all travel by boat and have done so since they caught the travel bug.  In the case of bananas, this has been going on since the late 19th century, as far as the supply of fruit from South America and the Caribean to North America and Europe is concerned.

Most countries with ocean access have more than one port.  The fruit trade therefore has potentially a lot of choice where fruits and vegetables should be discharged.

Today's reality looks a little different though. It is not just a matter of getting fruit unloaded when a boat docks iat a specific destination.  Several mission critical questions play a big role in determining where a vessel should discharge. Time is typically of the essence as we dealing with perishable produce. As well as these questions;

  • What is the closest point of arrival to the country of origin?
  • How modern are the discharging facilities?
  • What services are available at the wharf?
  • How suitable is the harbour city's traffic infrastructure?
  • How fast can the vessel be turned around?
  • What are the chances of picking up new freight upon arrival?
  • Can the wharves cope with the vessel size?
  • How likely is it that wharf workers and stevedores will go on strike?

These questions have more or less answered themselves by now and on each continent, the key fruit trading ports have  selected themselves by way of ensuring they can keep ahead of customer requirements.

Antwerp in Belgium, for example, is only the second largest facility in Europe, lagging behind Rotterdam in the Netherlands by a considerable margin.  But for the European fruit trade, Antwerp is number one. In the US, Wilmington in Delaware is the largest amongst the banana and produce importing ports.  This is not surprising given the population density of America's Eastern Seaboard.

The favourite fruit destination for the US West Coast centres around Hueneme and San Diego.  The "obvious" destinations of Los Angeles and New York are being bypassed in favour of these smaller centres which have the ability to process perishable fruit a lot faster - and every hour counts in the race of getting imported fruits & vegetables in the best possible condition to the consumer.

Ultimately, the key questions fruit importers ask themselves as they direct fruit to arrive at a specific location by container vessel or reefer ship is this;

How fast can the fruit be moved from the wharves and warehouses inland to where the customers are?






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