While PortMiami already has strong import movement from Chile, officials there have been approached by shippers and brokers seeking to import greater quantities of fresh produce from the country.
Eric Olafson, Esquire, manager, Intergovernmental Affairs/Cargo Development for PortMiami, said that port representatives have met with many of the leading importers.
“We held high-level meetings on Dec.12 in Washington, DC, with BillJohnson, director of PortMiami Director and Felipe Bulnes, Chilean ambassador, who announced at the PMA Fresh Summit in Anaheim, CA, that the top targeted markets for importing Chilean fruit were Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Wilmington and, for the first time, Miami,” said Mr. Olafson. “Expanding agricultural trade with Latin America will mean millions more in additional earnings and saving in freshness and shelf life due to the fact PortMiami is the closest port to Chile, the world's largest exporter of winter fruit.”
He noted that when PortMiami officials were in Rotterdam, they were working to transship more Chilean fruit to Rotterdam and Europe via PortMiami.
“We feel that geography and our port efficiencies make PortMiami the ideal entry point to Chilean and other countries’ perishables — to drop off North American loads — and also to have the containers transshipped to European markets,” said Mr. Olafson.
PortMiami has planned upcoming trips to Peru for Peru Cargo Week and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce will travel to Chile for the International Berry Conference. Florida Governor Rick Scott will lead the delegation to Chile, which is a top market for PortMiami. Enterprise Florida Inc., the official economic development organization for the state of Florida, and Governor Scott will lead a trade mission to Santiago, Chile on May 19-23.
The United States enjoys a mutually symbiotic relationship with Chile. The country ranks sixth among Florida’s top product export destinations, with over $3.9 billion in exports in 2011. Florida exports to Chile increased at a rate of 24.3 percent through October 2012. In the Miami Customs District, which stretches from the Florida Keys to Port St. Lucie, Chile, ranked the eighth largest trading partner in 2012, according to a World City analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.
PortMiami is also currently working with the Governor's Office and their partners in Chile to change fruit trade routes.
“Many of the Chilean products cannot currently enter ports in the Northeast such as Philadelphia,” said Mr. Olafson. Thus, fruit grown in Latin America and bound for Florida hotels and cruise ships, literally sails past PortMiami, is shipped to northeastern ports and then trucked to Miami and the rest of Florida. Shipping to northern ports lengthens shipping time, shortens shelf life and increases consumer costs. It also adds to highway congestion on our interstate system and increases vehicle emissions.”
Imports of fresh produce through PortMiami sustain thousands of well-paying jobs and produce millions in revenue. The port was recently named a U.S. Customs & Border Protection Center for Excellence and Expertise for Agriculture and Prepared Products.
“This is official recognition from the Federal Government that Miami is the perishables gateway for the U.S.,” said Mr. Olafson. “This is where huge quantities of produce from South and Central America enter as well as where the true expertise lies. The selection of PortMiami as a CEE highlights the inherent advantages in the port's location, being the closest East Coast port to producers of winter fruits and vegetables in Central and South America. The announcement by CBP helps solidify PortMiami’s role as the natural gateway for perishables and highlights the bilingual expertise of CBP experts here in Miami.
“Here at PortMiami we are constantly working to expand the perishables market with our visit to the cool port in Rotterdam,” he continued. “Just as Rotterdam is the ‘stomach’ of Europe or perishables gateway, PortMiami serves as a perishables gateway to the U.S., and a perishables transshipment gateway to Europe.”
Mr. Olafson noted that with the implementation of Enforcement Link to Mobile Operations, commonly referred to as ELMOcargo, field officers using handheld devices are able to immediately clear containers. This device speeds up release time by up to four hours making operations more efficient while continuing to keep the Port secure.