Refrigeratedtransporter 3741 Reefers At Norfolk Terminals

Port of Virginia completes USDA pilot program for perishables

Feb. 28, 2019
Learn how the Port of Virginia plans to grow its reefer cargo business after completing a USDA pilot program.

Following the successful completion of the US Department of Agriculture’s Southeast In-Transit Cold Treatment Pilot program, importers of perishables from South American countries can now move their cargo across The Port of Virginia.

“We’re the US East Coast’s leading vegetable exporter, and this designation positions us to achieve the same success with imported fruit,” said John F Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority. “This is important for logistics and supply chain managers importing agricultural products because it means this cargo will get to its market more quickly.”

This approval coincides with the port’s effort to expand its capacity to handle refrigerated cargo. The port is investing a combined $700 million to expand capacity at its two primary container terminals, Virginia International Gateway (VIG) and Norfolk International Terminals (NIT). The investment includes more room for refrigerated cargo at each terminal.

“We’re expanding the stack-yard at VIG and reconfiguring the yard at NIT, and both of these projects include new reefer racks for each stack,” Reinhart said. “When construction is finished, we’ll have nearly 900 reefer spaces at each terminal, which is a 66% increase in total reefer capacity. We have the necessary federal approval and capacity to help develop Virginia into an export and import center for refrigerated cargo.”

The port also has the capability to handle refrigerated cargo on the Richmond Express barge, which links the port’s terminals in the Norfolk Harbor to Richmond Marine Terminal (RMT) with thrice-weekly service. In 2017, the port invested in a 40-plug power unit for the barge.

“There are users of RMT that use the barge to move reefer cargo, and interest in that service continues to grow,” Reinhart said. “The work we are doing in this area of business is helping to diversify our cargo mix and build a sustainable future for this port.”

In October 2017, the port began participating in the USDA’s pilot program that allowed imports of certain refrigerated fresh fruits from South America. Under the program, Virginia could import cold-treated containers of blueberries, citrus and grapes from Peru; blueberries and grapes from Uruguay; and apples, blueberries and pears from Argentina. The approval is effective immediately.

In the past, these time-sensitive shipments would have come to the East Coast and moved across ports in the Northeast. Prior to the program’s start in 2013, the perishables were required to enter Northeastern ports for cold treatment and clearance and were then transported to Southern states for distribution into stores.

The program enables containerized imports to enter the port directly after completing a two-week cold treatment process as a safeguard against fruit flies and other pests, as well as acquiring all the required unloading clearances prior to the shipment’s arrival in port. Cold treatment is a process by which perishable fruit imports have their pulp brought to a certain temperature for a period of time in order to fulfill USDA quarantine requirements.

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