green and tech interviews

“Fruit and vegetable still evolveswith the container” / INTERVIEW

Rossi (Spediporto): “Significant imbalance between inspections in Italian and foreign ports”.

ITALY is the leading country in terms of the number of exhibitors at Fruit Logistica in Berlin: Italy sent 519, compared to 386 from Spain, 349 from the Netherlands, 296 from Germany and 228 from France. It is an unmissable opportunity for the operators in the sector, including Genoese forwarders, as Giovanni Rossi, Head of Health Care at Spediporto, explained. Rossi was present for Fruit Logistica 2018 and is an expert in cold chain logistics.

How is this sector changing?

“Large groups now have a presence among the forwarders who have been in business for less than a decade, attracted by the fact that margins in the reefer sector are still a little higher than in other sectors”.

Is this the effect of shifting cargo from regular cargo ships to container carriers?

“Before, even the forwarders who dealt with these trades were few and specialized. Fruit and vegetables arrived in the holds of cargo ships at a few properly equipped terminals, such as Genoa, Vado and Civitavecchia. Over the last 15 to 20 years, a transformation has taken place, which has also led to the closure of some fruit terminals. Today, with the product travelling in containers, it is easier to get involved in this business. Previously the forwarder was involved in the customs clearance of imported goods, now with containers he is also responsible for freight rates, which at the time of the cargo ships were contracted directly between suppliers and the shipping companies.”

Today, even the largest shipping companies are investing in reefer container transport. Have the producers been favoured by developments in containers?

“Shipments have become more widespread because all that is needed is to fill a minimum unit, that is, a container, and it can travel from any port to any port. Previously, large scale volumes used to be required to fill up a part of a ship. Today even small farmers can make up their own containers.”

Perishable goods do not only travel in containers. Do you also deal with wheeled cargo?

“Those kinds of goods no longer come to Genoa; we would need a warehouse structured like those in Vado and Civitavecchia. But Genoese forwarders do not work only in Genoa. We have our own offices or representation throughout the Mediterranean. We follow import logistics and customs clearance in ports such as Gioia Tauro, Salerno and Ancona, while for exports we not only manage, for example, kiwis from Piedmont through Ligurian ports, but also apples from Trentino to other ports. We assess which are the best routes and ports in terms of transit time and costs.”

How important is the Berlin trade fair for freight forwarders?

“You go and get in touch with the shipping companies, foreign shippers and Italian fruit buyers. Seasonal fruits such as kiwis, pears and apples are handled in both import and export, depending on the time of year. High value fruits such as cherries, first fruits and those that perish quickly are transported by air, but the freight rate is correspondingly ten or twenty times higher than by sea. In Berlin we also meet terminal operators who flesh out the world of ports and port services.”

Are Italy’s ports competitive?

“They are for some kinds of traffic. Tomatoes from Tunisia pass through Genoa to reach Germany, and salad greens reach Great Britain via Italy, although the uncertainty of Brexit now looms over that traffic. But a lot of traffic that previously passed through Genoa now reaches Germany and Poland via the Adriatic. Italy has the largest number of border inspections in the European Union. For example, nuts from the United States that arrive in Italy undergo a maritime health inspection, which does not exist in Holland, as it is included in the customs inspection. Three health clearances are required for pears. And so sometimes vegetables from Tunisia are preferentially shipped to Marseille, where they are cleared through customs in one hour. This is how we lose traffic.”