During the first week of June, the first ship with new season citrus from South Africa arrived in the port of Rotterdam. The ‘Crown Garnet’ docked at the port of the Rotterdam Merwehaven, which was full of cooling houses for the storage and overhaul of fruit prior to 2009. This part of the port was known as the fruit haven. Now only Peter van de Laar, commercial manager of Rotterdam Fruit Wharf, is left standing in this once busy part of the port. The logistical service company is part of the Sea-invest group and and treats the containers of fruit for the customer.

The ‘Crown Garnet’ is a conventional cooled ship that sales on the rout from the South African ports of Durban, Port Elisabeth and Cape Town to Rotterdam and St Petersburg. The service is maintained by Seatrade and Baltic Shipping and is included in the Reefer Alliance.

The ship mainly brings grapefruit from South Africa to Europe. The South African expect a good market for this citrus due to a smaller harvest this year and a relatively empty market in Europe. South African can use these good prices for citrus. The economy in the country went down more than expected in the first quarter. The citrus cultivation in country is, however, on the right tracks and could bring some relief to the particularly hard hit agricultural sector in the country.

From chilled ship to cool warehouse
At the Merwehaven dock Peter watches the first ship being unloaded. The reefer containers – which are above the deck of the cooling ship – are opened immediately and the pallets of citrus are taken into cooled warehouses with a capacity of 20,000 pallets divided over 30 different chilled rooms. Here the regular inspection by the KCB and customs awaits and after this the pallets can be collected by the customer and taken to the desired location. “All of this for a better price than the big shipping lines,” says Peter. “We don’t have to charge customers for THCs, terminal documents or extra transport. This can make a difference of a couple of hundred euros of cost per container.” -freshplaza.com