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Reefer fruit ship makes maiden call on Wilmington

by Tad Thompson | March 01, 2011

WILMINGTON, DE – The port of Wilmington in Delaware celebrated the maiden voyage of Seatrade's new refrigerated cargo ship, the m/v Atlantic Klipper.

The new ship, which loaded in Valparaiso, Chile, began discharging containers on its deck Feb. 23. The Diamond State Port Corp., which owns and operates the port of Wilmington, hosted a formal morning celebration of the maiden voyage Feb. 24 and offered a press tour of the ship that afternoon.

By volume, grapes were the Klipper's predominant Chilean fruit commodity, but the ship also carried stone fruit and blueberries.

The ship is 541 feet long and has the capacity for 5,400 fruit pallets below deck and 247 40-foot containers to be secured above deck. Of those containers, 200 can be refrigerated. The Klipper's captain, Erwin Reiche, showed The Produce News auxiliary the power stations that refrigerate the ship's holds, power the reefer containers and other portions of the ship's onboard operations. The huge engines to propel the ship involve an independent power segment, which can burn 55 metric tons of fuel a day.

Captain Reiche, a Dutchman whose command of the Atlantic Klipper commenced in Wilmington, said that the ship will cruise northbound at its full speed of 21.5 knots to assure the fastest delivery of its perishable cargo. The ship will conserve fuel with lower speeds on the southbound leg. It is a 4,000-mile voyage from Valparaiso to Wilmington.

This is the fifth new ship that has come under Captain Reiche's leadership since he became a captain in 1988.

John Coulahan, chief executive officer of Murphy Marine Services Inc., which manages the port's stevedoring services, met with The Produce News aboard the Atlantic Klipper. Mr. Coulahan said that the modern ship represented a major investment by Seatrade Reefer Chartering into breakbulk shipping, which is significant because "more and more" container ships are going into perishable cargo service. The breakbulk ships are especially important to those ports interested in creating jobs, he noted.

Mr. Coulahan said that Chilean fruit volume in Wilmington is up 8,000 pallets so for this season. "So far so good. They had a good growing season early. Now we're hitting the very heavy volume of the season."

Mr. Coulahan said that he feels the national business climate is starting to improve.

"There is more confidence in the economy,” he said. “We are not where we were before – people are being careful – but we have more inquiries coming on. More companies are looking for proposals."