Specialised reefer vessels played an instrumental role in sustaining South African citrus shipments this season, off-setting delays experienced on the container side and underscoring the importance of the continued use of reefer ships.
That’s according to Justin Chadwick, CEO of the Citrus Growers’ Association (CGA).
Speaking after provisional figures showed an extremely successful export season despite weather-, labour-, and port-related challenges, Chadwick stressed that a citrus trade future without reefer vessels would be unthinkable.
“Specialised reefer vessels (SRVs) have proven to be an incredibly strategic part of the logistics chain and this must remain as a key instrument to service these important markets.”
With an estimated 146 million cartons yielded this season, and growth projections supporting the notion that South African citrus exports could increase to 170 million cartons in the near future, it was imperative that SRVs remained part of the picture, Chadwick said.
“As the southern African citrus export volume grows to around 170 million cartons – some 105 000 reefer containers – the pressure on the reefer container logistics chain will most likely become very constrained.”
Chadwick made this comment in view of recurring holdups experienced at South African ports.
“Imagine in the future a year with 170 million cartons to be exported with a similar disruption at the ports’ container terminals as this year, without specialised reefer vessels – it’s simply unthinkable!”
In addition to the notable role SRVs played in buoying citrus exports, land-side initiatives to get reefer boxes from their agricultural source to the port without delay had also paid off, Chadwick added.
“There was a considerable uptake in reefer containers that were railed to Durban for export.
“Containers were railed from Bela Bela, Tzaneen, Musina and City Deep sidings - and for the most part made all the planned shipments.”