The first specialised reefer vessel (SRV) to be loaded with citrus was sent to China last week. The initial protocol for shipping South African citrus to China was signed in June 2004, stipulating that shipments could only be done using containers. In 2018, a second agreement was signed allowing shipment by break bulk or SRV. The amended protocol also allows for co-loading shipments to other countries, as long as they are in different sealed holds.
While container shipping is more cost effective than SRV and they allow smaller parcels of fruit to be sent, SRVs allow better temperature control for cold treatment in their holds, leading to better fruit quality – indeed the US and Japan predominantly require shipments in SRVs. Moreover, SRVs allow for easier and faster unloading.
South Africa’s citrus industry is expected to grow by 500 000 tons in the next three to five years, with much of this production coming from the north of the country and requiring shipment from Maputo or Durban. This will put additional pressure on the already congested port of Durban port. So, as SRVs can clear thousands of pallets in a few days, this solution will make space for new fruit to enter the port precinct.