N.C. Ports has secured certifications that will allow more direct imports of produce across the Americas and other countries, port officials announced Monday.
The port now has both Phase 1 and 2 of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Southeast In-Transit Cold Treatment Pilot program. Cold treatment is a process whereby perishable fruits have their pulp brought to a certain temperature in order to fulfill USDA quarantine requirements for fruits entering the U.S., officials said in a news release.
The program will allow more imports of produce, including fruits such as blueberries, grapes, apples, pears and citrus, officials said in the release. According to Bethany Welch, spokeswoman for N.C. Ports, the port secured these certifications Dec. 1.
“We have been working hard to get this program approved since the demand from our customer base is very strong and they wanted to see this capability for Wilmington move forward,” N.C. Ports Executive Director Paul Cozza said in the release.
The Port of Wilmington is currently the only South Atlantic port with both Phase 1 and 2, Welch said.
During Phase 1 of the pilot program, fruits will be chilled between 15 and 17 days at a specified temperature to protect against pests. The process begins in fruit exporting countries in Central and South America. The refrigerated cargo can then only be discharged from a South Atlantic terminal upon completion of its treatment schedule, officials said.
In Phase 2 of the pilot program, the port now has the ability to allow importers with refrigerated cargo to finish the cargo's treatment schedule on-terminal, before being discharged.
“Phase 2 opens up a totally new dimension for our port and an option for importers to complete treatment after discharge, which is unique in the south/mid-Atlantic and only available at the Port of Wilmington at this time,” Hans Bean, vice president of trade and development at N.C. Ports, said in the release.
“The addition of N.C. Ports to the program allows the Authority to serve the North Carolina grocery sector with fresh produce with our partner ocean carriers with multiple logistical and economic advantages,” Bean added.
At N.C. Ports first Cold Chain Summit
in November, Bean mentioned the USDA certifications serve as a "huge asset" for that market.
The Port of Wilmington has refrigerated container capacity with almost 300 plugs on terminal and the capability to add more, officials said. In addition to that capacity, the port is also home to a 101,000-square-foot on terminal refrigerated warehouse – the Port of Wilmington Cold Storage facility – one of only a few in-port cold storage facilities in the country.
“N.C. Ports is truly a global gateway, constantly expanding our international reach with the addition of Wilmington’s inclusion in the Cold Treatment program and our existing refrigerated capacity,” N.C. Ports CCO Greg Fennell, said in the release.