Antwerp becomes major hub for reefer cargo from Ecuador
The European rotation of an MSC container service between the West Coast of South America and northern Europe has been modified to bring reefer cargo from Ecuador to Antwerp in just 17 days. There is a clear trend in reefer shipping for more and more fruit to be carried in containers. Container carriers have seen their market share rise significantly in the past few years, at the expense of the traditional reefer fleet, the Belgian port's press release said.
The Ecuadorian group Noboa has now also decided to send its Bonita brand of bananas from Guayaquil by container carrier instead of the traditional refrigerated ships. The fruit producer opted for MSC because this shipping company is able to guarantee rapid transit times between Ecuador and northern Europe. In fact MSC has changed its sailing schedule specially for this contract, so that Antwerp is now the first port of unlading. Antwerp is already the world’s largest banana port, as well as being an important hub for reefer cargo.
The first reefer containers with bananas were loaded on board the MSC Vaishnavi R in Guayaquil on 18 May. This vessel is able to carry 4,112 TEU containers including no fewer than 1,300 reefer boxes. The first shipment arrived in Antwerp yesterday, and from now on an average of 260 40-foot reefer containers will be sent weekly. Immediately on arrival the containers with bananas are loaded directly from seagoing ship to barge at the MSC Home Terminal, for rapid transfer to the Belgian New Fruit Wharf refrigerated warehouse in the Leopold dock, which in this case is treated by the Customs Service as an extended gateway of the terminal.
Last year the reefer volume amounted to 1.3 million tonnes, while the number of reefer containers handled was 480,000 TEU. The presence of a large number of refrigerated warehouses in Antwerp, the port’s location deep inland and the rapid Customs clearance and foodstuffs inspection at the Border Inspection Post all give Antwerp significant advantages for reefer cargoes where short transit times and fast throughput are crucial.
These advantages were showcased once more at the European Seafood Exposition which was held in Brussels at the beginning of May. On this occasion Antwerp Port Authority welcomed a delegation from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce with a large number of companies operating in the seafood sector (including among other things lobster exports), together with an official delegation from Rongcheng (in the eastern province of Shandong), the most import Chinese export port for seafood. In this sector the extra first call due to be introduced by the P3 service from the Far East will also offer a number of new opportunities.