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July 6 2020

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30 The Journal of Commerce | July 6 2020 Cool Cargoes Market Report Special Report SEASONED VETERANS IN the perish- ables industry are accustomed to adapting to changing marketplace conditions. Recessions, droughts, pest infestations, livestock disease, labor strikes — they've seen it all. However, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) stands apart both for the severe disruption it's causing across global economies, transpor- tation networks, and the workforce, and for the particularly harsh impact it's had on food growers, processers, retailers, and consumers. The turmoil unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic has barely sub- sided, evidenced by numerous reports of service failures that continue to come in from stakeholders through- out the food supply chain. While the dramatic refrigerated (reefer) equipment imbalances that spiked in March and April are easing slightly, plenty of unresolved transport issues remain, said Howard Posner, president and managing director of NAGA Logistics, a non- vessel- operating common carrier (NVO) and freight forwarder, as well as US general agents for the Seatrade Group. Finding solutions to those prob - lems and getting timely information is harder than ever with so many staffers working from home. Posner cited recent shipments destined for India as an example. The Ministry of Shipping ordered shipping lines to suspend detention and demur- rage at Indian ports from March 22 to April 14, while customers' shipments were already on the water. The ocean carrier representative assured NAGA Logistics that its customers' shipments would not incur detention and demur- rage charges, even though the 45-day transit time meant the shipment would arrive after the end of the grace period. But the customers ended up get- ting charged, and attempts to reach someone at the organization who could reverse the charges were unsuc- cessful, said Posner. The response from the carrier was, "We can't get a reply from management; they are all working from home," he said. For NAGA Logistics, the inabil- ity to reach appropriate staff at the ocean carriers is ongoing, "even when we're trying to get rates, or trying to get confirmation on equipment," Posner told The Journal of Commerce, and that's on top of existing compli- cations with "skipped schedules or entire services being pulled." "It's frustrating to read announce- ments from carrier executives who say they're returning to 'business as usual' and 'we're working through this,' " Posner said. While the largest BCOs may have "a bit more leverage" with the lines, he noted, that's not the case for everyone. Identifying new opportunities While container lines continue to see large downfalls in demand result- ing from the pandemic, traditional reefer ships are seeing an uptick in business. NAGA Logistics worked with part- ner GreenSea Chartering to charter a reefer ship from Southern California's Port Hueneme to Japan in mid-March for a major California citrus exporter, something that hadn't happened since the labor slowdown at US West Coast ports about six years ago, "when a couple of reefer ships were chartered in for Korea and Japan," said Posner. "Concerns about the inability to get sufficient reefer equipment or confirmation on schedules, combined with rising carrier surcharges and a need to move product, resulted in the ability to put a deal together for them and get fresh fruit into the market quickly," he explained. South Africa's citrus shippers are continuing to utilize reefer ships in their citrus program to the US. Cold medicine Reefer supply chain symptoms linger aer initial COVID-19 shock By Lara L. Sowinski

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