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Port of Tucson to open reefer rail facility this summer

TUCSON, AZ — By late summer, a new 240,000-square-foot cold storage cross dock facility will be operational at the port of Tucson, here.

This facility connects directly to the main line of the Union Pacific Railroad. From here, produce and other perishable product shippers can access rail service directly to shipside in the seaports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, or receive direct service to Chicago. From Chicago, trains are taken by CSX to markets in the eastern United States.2015-3-container-lift-Pt-TucsonAt the Port of Tucson, heavy machinery lifts a 53-foot intermodal container from its chassis so it can be shipped to the Northeast with finished goods from the maquiladora industry.

Stefan Baumann, director of business development at the port of Tucson, is developing partners to create a forward-distribution center on the East Coast. This facility would receive approximately 60 boxcar unit trains of produce to be warehoused for immediate and direct delivery to customers in the populous Northeast.

Alan Levin, owner and founder of the port of Tucson, said his business was named a Foreign Trade Zone in 1996. Bonded produce shipped from Mexico can go straight through Nogales to be exported via Long Beach to Asia.

“We can ship anyplace in Asia,” Levin said.

Imported Asian products can receive the same privileges and service on reverse routes.

Levin and Baumann are encouraging Nogales produce distributors to review their operations to see the practical advantages in shipping to California, and beyond, or to Chicago and the eastern United States by rail.

Groundwork was under way on the fresh produce cross dock facility when The Produce News toured the port of Tucson March 9.2015-3-Levin-BaumannIn the lobby of the Port of Tucson are Alan Levin, the port’s owner and founder, and Stefan Baumann, director of business development. The climate-controlled facility will be 1,200 feet long and 200 feet wide, with 88 truck bays on the street side. The interior will be subdivided into 12 cold rooms, each measuring 100 feet by 200 feet. The rail side will have a loading dock 30 feet wide that encloses refrigerated rail cars to assure temperatures are maintained throughout the distribution process.

Levin said his facility already has 2 million square feet of storage, including an operational frozen warehouse. On his 800 acres, there is space for an additional 15 million square feet of warehousing.

“We are shovel-ready for tenants, or we will build to suit,” said Levin.

Baumann said the port’s single largest-volume product currently is frozen turkey. This is complementary to handling produce shipped to Nogales from Mexico. He explained that turkey processors begin building Thanksgiving inventory in June, and then, of course, begin shipping in November. The Tucson warehousing space is then conveniently emptied in time for the peak shipping period of the Nogales deal.

The port of Tucson and the nearby Tucson International Airport will present IDEAS 2015, the 3rd annual Inter-Multimodal Development Expo Arizona-Sonora on April 29 at the port of Tucson. Organizations scheduled to participate include the Food & Drug Administration, C.H. Robinson, CR England, Union Pacific, CSX and the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas.

Baumann noted Tucson is served directly off Union Pacific’s mainline that runs from Los Angeles to El Paso and then on to Chicago. It is the port of Tucson’s direct connection to the mainline that gives the shippers the ability to expedite the produce to the destinations faster.

Levin, who grew up on a grain farm in north-central Kansas, graduated from Kansas State University before being deployed by the U.S. Air Force to the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. It was during that stint than he observed the railroad passing through Tucson and considered what the potential was to develop that resource.

Levin noted that this facility is the only privately owned intermodal rail terminal in the Union Pacific rail system.