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PHILADELPHIA — If Philadelphia isn’t a Mexican border town, then your produce industry chart needs an update.

More than 20 members of Mexico’s produce industry were in Philadelphia June 14-16 to see firsthand what this port has to offer in handling and distributing their precious cargo that can now arrive by sea.

The Mexican Inbound Trade Mission was hosted by the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority. Also involved in the meeting were government representatives and regional industry members who have been active in the Ship Philly First effort to create an ocean link between the east coast of Mexico and Philadelphia, which is a seaport specializing in fresh produce trade.

The refrigerated container steamship company SeaLand stepped up to link Mexico and Philadelphia through its new SL Atlantico Northbound weekly service, which began in late January. While there is certainly room for growth, all indications are that the route has a strong start.

Fresh Mexican produce is the primary target for the northbound service, but frozen meats and chilled foods are other key products that suit Atlantico Northbound. Dry goods, such as auto parts and many other commodities have access to the service. In broad numbers, Pennsylvania and Mexico have two-way trade with one another with a total value of $8 billion.

This new ocean freight option gives Mexican exporters a less-expensive alternative for reaching the populous eastern United States and Canada. Forty percent of the U.S. population is within a one-day truck delivery of Philadelphia.

The Mexican produce exporters located south and east of Mexico City have been tagged as having the most to gain through this ocean freight vs. trucking through Nogales or Texas.

SeaLand sails from Veracruz on Tuesdays to make a stop in Altamira, which is another port further north on the Gulf of Mexico coast in the state of Veracruz. The ship then departs for Philadelphia and arrives the following Wednesday, six days later.

After a well-attended opening reception June 14, the trade mission followed with a formal presentation session hosted by Sean Mahoney, director of marketing for the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority. There was an afternoon tour to see either Lucca Cold Storage or Mullica Hill Cold Storage in New Jersey. A tour of the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market was scheduled for June 16, along with one-on-one business meetings and a tour of Philadelphia’s Pier 82 and the Gloucester Marine Terminal in Gloucester City, NJ.

Mahoney credited Fred Sorbello, the first president of Ship Philly First, for stirring the initial effort for this service. And he acknowledged Carlos Giralt, Philadelphia’s Mexican Consul, for playing a key role in connecting the final deal.

In crediting the success of this effort, among others, Mahoney also acknowledged the roles Tom Krajewski, SeaLand’s head of refrigerated sales; Larry Antonucci, the current president of Ship Philly First; and Dominic O’Brien, the PRPA’s senior marketing representative, who performed the background work to create the ocean link.

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