Specialized reefer vessel loading not hampered by wind

Wild Cosmos offloads early South African grapes in time for Xmas

South African grapes from the early production areas were offloaded at the Dutch port of Vlissingen this past weekend, bringing grapes to the market in time for the advantageous pre-Christmas market.

Photo: MJ ter Heege

Grapes from the Orange River region and Namibia, as well as the Northern Region (Limpopo and Mpumalanga), make up the 4,300 pallets on board Swedish shipping company Cool Carrier’s specialized reefer vessel, the Wild Cosmos. The pallets were loaded individually onto the refrigerated cargo hold at the beginning of December, a process that is independent of wind conditions.

This year, because the grape season slowly picked up steam with delayed harvests in both Namibia and the Orange River region, some clients who were originally intending to send grapes on the Wild Cosmos, cancelled due to a shortage of grapes. Because grapes on board the ship also go to the United Kingdom, it carries a large quantity of grapes from the Orange River.

While the loading of containers onto container ships are hampered by strong winds, coupled with delays due to terminal congestion and erratic shipping line schedules, this ship has the major advantage that it can guarantee its arrival date. Sending perishable products with a specialized reefer vessel is more expensive than normal container shipping but it makes economic sense at times when the market is strong. 

In the past there have been up to five reefer vessels for the early grape trade from South Africa, but this year only one, due to undercapacity.

At the moment container ships at Cape Town Harbour have been missing their departure dates by two to five days due to wind.

 “This past week the wind was very strong, we lost almost a whole week, but it’s expected at this time of the year, everyone knows it,” says a logistics agent who works in Cape Town Harbour. “Today the wind is better, we’re hoping to make up time. Ships are working hard to retain schedule integrity.”
Problems at Durban Harbour also pose a problem to maintaining schedule integrity.

The Wild Cosmos has already left Vlissingen, en route to her next destination. South Africa will see her again in the Southern Hemisphere’s winter when she will take in grapefruit destined for Japan.

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