Credit: GPA

Credit: GPA

Expect to see more South American produce coming directly into the southern U.S. at one facility due to the Georgia Ports Authority’s participation in a U.S. Department of Agriculture pilot program.

Starting Sept. 1, the Port of Savannah will begin handling fruit from South America that has undergone cold treatment, a process that prevents the transmission of agricultural pests.

Through the USDA program, citrus fruits, grapes and blueberries will be chilled for at least 17 days prior to entry into the U.S. to protect against fruit flies. The process will be done in producing countries, including Peru, Chile and Brazil, or at transshipment points such as Panama.

The fruit will move in refrigerated containers held just over freezing during transit aboard cargo vessels, effectively cutting the time the fruit must remain stationary for treatment.

“South American fresh fruit destined to the southeast market has traditionally been shipped to northern U.S. ports,” said GPA executive director Curtis Foltz. “Delivery to Savannah means fruits won’t have to be trucked as far to reach Southeastern markets, allowing fresher offerings for stores and longer shelf life for consumers.”

Besides faster delivery, the program also cuts logistics-related emissions by reducing truck miles and allowing more efficient shipments, according to GPA. Trucks carrying refrigerated cargo containers may be loaded up to a gross weight of 100,000 pounds on Georgia highways, where domestic interstate trucks may be loaded only to 80,000 pounds.

Cliff Pyron, GPA chief commercial officer, said port customers have been requesting the delivery of fruit closer to the fast-growing market of the southeastern U.S.

“Because the South American growing season is opposite that of the U.S., these shipments are vital for keeping fresh produce on shelves year-round,” he said.

The Garden City Terminal in Savannah has a refrigerated container capacity of more than 2,600 containers. The refrigerated boxes are powered by 600 chassis plug-ins and 2,016 container rack slots.