US ports expand cold chain facilities

It’s getting chilly at the US ports of Charleston and Savannah as each take advantage of growing cold chain opportunities. Cold-storage facilities are popping up around each of these ports and as a result will likely increase the port of Charleston’s current market share of 9.0% of refrigerated cargo and the port of Savannah’s 28.0% further.

Lineage Logistics and Agro Merchants Group have announced plans to build facilities close to the Charleston port. Total square footage for these two companies is expected to be 340,000 and 120,000 respectively. Furthermore, earlier this year, New Orleans Cold Storage announced plans to double storage space as it continues to maintain its position as one of the largest logistics and cold storage suppliers to the poultry, pork, beef, sea food, vegetable and international refrigerated food industries. For the port of Charleston this equates to around 100,000 TEUs.

In addition, as part of a US Department of Agriculture pilot programme, the port of Savannah announced it would import South American citrus, grapes and blueberries for consumers in the south eastern US. As part of the programme, fruits will be chilled for at least 17 days prior to entry into the US to protect against fruit flies. The process will be done in producing countries such as Peru, Chile and Brazil or at transhipment points such as Panama.

According to port officials, “South American fresh fruit destined to the south east market has traditionally been shipped to Northern US ports. Delivery to Savannah means fruits won’t have to be trucked as far to reach south eastern markets, allowing fresher offerings for stores and longer shelf life for consumers.”

Among the recent cold chain announcements around the port of Savannah is that of Nordic Cold Storage, which in August announced plans for a new 400,000 sq ft public refrigerated warehouse near the port of Savannah. Besides cooler and freezer space, the facility will include ‘quick freeze’ chambers and blast freezing capabilities of 15,000 tons of product per week.

Indeed, the growth of these cold chain distribution centers will likely benefit industry groups such as the grocery business. For example, in June, Kroger announced plans to build a 1m sq ft distribution centre in Forrest Park, Georgia, about 4 hours from the port of Savannah. The centre will service existing operations in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee and according to company officials, deliver products to stores quicker.

The demand for cold chain logistics services is expected to grow and according to some estimates, North America holds the largest market share for such services. This is likely to hold true for some time as temperature-controlled technology advances and globalization expands further.