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50 years of cold chain logistics

Crowley has served perishables shippers for over 50 years by providing a host of cold-chain transportation and logistics services.

Crowley has served perishables shippers for over 50 years by providing a host of cold-chain transportation and logistics services.

The company and its subsidiary Customized Brokers operate regularly scheduled ocean cargo services between the US, the Caribbean and Central America. It offers state-of-the-art, GPS-enabled, remote monitored refrigerated containers which adhere to stringent sanitation requirements and can be positioned at a customer’s growing facility. Cold-storage warehousing in Miami is also provided along with Import and Customs clearance services into the US; expedited services for perishables awaiting customs clearance; specialised per box fixed-rate asparagus program, CBP/AQI clearances, fumigation coordination, Highly Mobile Actionable Pest (HMAP) refrigerated pest control services in Port Everglades, Fla; documentation handling, including FDA Prior Notices and Importer Security Filling (10+2); inspection tracking updates; reconciliation entries; all risk cargo insurance; US agents for FDA representing foreign facilities; FDA Foreign Facility Registration; and full cargo visibility through an online customer portal.

Air forwarders and new port connections

The company has received a permit for perishables shipments moving over ocean from Latin America to connect via air in Miami for forwarding to Europe and Asia thus allowing for fresher products with reduced seasonality throughout that hemisphere. Additionally, Crowley has added a port call from Jacksonville, Fla., to Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, allowing for additional options when moving goods to and from the southern zone of Central America.

Long awarded history of environmental protection

The leading shipper and forwarder of Central America has long been focused on sustainability and safety issues. A Crowley Safety in Towing Handbook, published 20 years before the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, contains operational procedures to prevent spills that many years later became law. “This early interest in keeping our harbors and oceans clean has developed into a strong company culture of environmental stewardship,” said Customised Brokers vice president Nelly Yunta.

Crowley’s EcoStewardship program continues in the direction of greener technology, using more environmentally friendly operations and joining partnerships to help build a greener planet. Crowley’s environmental initiatives have led to special recognition from several prestigious government organizations, including the Chamber of Shipping of America, the US Coast Guard’s William Benkert Award for Environmental Excellence, Washington Department of Ecology Exceptional Compliance Program, Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force Legacy Award and the United States Green Building Council LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver Award Designation, among others.

Most energy-efficient technologies

In the field of technology Crowley is no less active. Among recent initiatives are the building and operation of the industry’s newest and most environmentally friendly Articulated-Tug Barges (ATBs), the acquisition and deployment of the industry’s most energy efficient and environmentally friendly refrigerated containers.

Crowley leads the way in building and operating double-hull petroleum barges for coastwise and river transportation in Alaska. It is also using shore-side power (cold ironing) at various port locations to reduce carbon emissions. It is moving to low sulfur and ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel to help reduce particulate matter from tug stack emissions. The renovation of the corporate office of the group promotes environmental sustainability as well. Crowley also works to help clearing the air in the logistics activities Puerto Rico and Caribbean Trade. Crowley’s “Ocean Rangers” team help keep Alaska’s cruise liners environmentally up-to-date.

The most sustainable partner, multiple support programs

Crowley has partnered with the San Juan Bay Estuary Board and San Juan area schools to form an environmental program called “Vigilantes del Estuario”. The group also works with Yukon River Intertribal Watershed Council to help remove debris and other junk from remote Alaskan villages.

Crowley’s Articulated Tug Barges (ATBs) are being built under the ABS Safehull program for environmental protection. Crowley is an active participant in ABS’ Green Passport program, which enhances onboard vessel safety and environmental awareness. The group is also an active participant and supporter of the AWO’s Responsible Carrier Program, which integrates safety, environment and quality assurance. “Crowley is recognised for its Environmental Stewardship, we were honored with Marine Environmental Business of the Year Award,” Yunta said.

Significant rise of traffic, Peru and Mexico

“We at Crowley and Customized Brokers have seen a rise in Peruvian perishables coming into the US perhaps as a result of some of the cold chain initiatives bringing produce in through South Florida,” Yunta said. Additionally, Mexico has seen a sharp +28% year-over-year increase of perishable traffic handling for the group, Jamaica +46%, Uruguay 22%. The activities with Honduras, El Salvador, Chile and Argentina are more stable with just 5 to 8% increase.

Quality improvements 

Crowley offers services of location and temperature monitoring, through the use of SmartTraxx GOTM by Locus Traxx Worldwide. “SmartTraxx GO fits in the palm of your hand and is powerful enough to monitor shipment in real-time,” Yunta said. It indeed delivers updates to the customer’s PC or smartphone, or if preferable, customised brokers can receive the alerts, monitor the cargo on behalf of the customer and take action as needed.

In order to better serve the diverse equipment needs of its  ocean cargo and logistics customers, Crowley has placed $32.7 million worth of new cargo carrying equipment into service recently, including 440 generator sets (gensets) and 400, 40-foot high cube refrigerated (reefer) containers, available since the end of 2015. “Since 2003 our company invested over a quarter of a billion dollars in new cargo equipment,” Yunta said: The figures are indeed impressive: Crowley operates today with more than 52,000 pieces of owned and leased intermodal equipment, including more than 22,015 chassis, 21,297 dry containers, and more than 3,916 refrigerated containers, all of which come in a variety of sizes and are strategically located throughout the United States, Central America and the Caribbean.

Lobbying towards direct perishable shipments through Florida ports

Through Yunta’s leadership to the board of directors for Florida Perishables Trade Coalition (FPTC), the coalition’s key initiative to encourage the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow direct importation and distribution of South American perishables that require cold treatment through Florida ports. Until now this has been prohibited by federal law because of the possible introduction of injurious pests, like fruit flies, and disease to an area whose economy depends in part on local agriculture. “Our efforts have been somehow successful and have helped to provide additional benefit to Crowley and Customized Brokers customers” said Yunta.

After almost two years of careful planning and education, a six-month pilot program launched coinciding with the growing season and signaling a change that could potentially bring millions of dollars’ worth of business to South Florida, while also making fresh fruits (specifically grapes and blueberries from Peru and Uruguay) more readily available to southern regions. About two months after the program initially launched, the first shipment of grapes from Alpine Fresh, Inc. in Peru, arrived in the Port of Miami and was successfully cleared upon arrival by Customised Brokers. Sixteen other loads followed into South Florida as part of the pilot.

New CrowleyFresh center in Miami

The pilot program has since been expanded to include the Port of Savannah and most recently the Port of Charleston. This successful involvement led the Company to be recognised as a leader in the industry including a “Rock Star of the Supply Chain” award which was presented to Yunta earlier this year.

The company also opened a cold-storage facility in Miami, CrowleyFresh, which allows it to bundle services and makes it easier for importers who want to turn over the entire product entry process to their customs broker. The firm can unload the product from ships or air containers and get it through the fumigation process, cool it and handle the paperwork.