Following a call for proposals launched in June 2016, the Dunkirk based company Conhexa was chosen in the summer to manage, operate and develop the Port de Sète’s refrigerated terminal as well as develop their fruit and vegetable traffic. Fruit traffic started up again on the 10th December with the arrival of the first Reefer ship belonging to the Dutch company Seatrade. It arrived straight from Madagascar following a 14-day journey. The Baltic Klipper ship unloaded over 8,00 tons of lychees for European clients. They were packaged in reefer containers (128) and normal 1-ton palettes (5,400).
The temperature controlled storage areas (+1°C to -25°C) cost over €20 million to construct and have the capacity to treat 500,000 tons of perishable goods per year over 23,000m2. Their proximity to the quays and to water deeper than 450m enables them to work with conventional big ships and containers. They also have modern, high performing tools such as the Eurocrane container crane that was developed in 2012 and the mobile Liebher crane from 2013, both financed by the Etablissement Public Régional Port Sud de France.
Lychee importers who usually unload their cargo in ports in Northern Europe, such as Zeebrugge and Anvers, have been attracted to Sète thanks to the tools and facilities made available as well as Conhexa’s reputation.
Not only do they cut back 4 days of travel (compared to Madagascar to Zeebrugge), but they also save time on the final stages of delivery as it is believed that a lot of merchandise unloaded in the North is then taken back down South by road.
Lychees are very fragile and do not withstand delays between harvest and final distribution. Speed and reliability are the two key elements that the Port de Sète has been successfully able to fulfil. Luc Van Holzaet, CEO of the Conhexa group says that “This shows our clients that we can work with all types of perishable produce at Sète with efficiency and reliability.”
All of the logistic operations took place successfully in just 4 days, despite the rain. All involved (Port de Sète, SPS, Delom Portuaire, Transfert Intl etc.) were able to efficiently handle the ships, with handling rates reaching 22 containers per hour and 1,800 palettes a day. This is quite a performance considering that the last fruit ship was in 2013. On the logistics side, the Conhexa team was able to perfectly organise cross-decking operations and delivery to clients across the EU, whilst always keeping the warehouse temperature at 1°.
“Speed and reliability” were achieved and are key strengths in attracting new traffic, which will also benefit from the expertise and presence of P&O Ports who are in charge of the new container terminal.
Conhexa aims to become the reference in food produce logistics (fruit and vegetables, frozen produce, dried goods etc) in the South of France and offer a Mediterranean complementarity to the existing structures in the North of Europe. With fruit and vegetable transportation high worldwide and Europe being the biggest import zone, Conhexa is optimistic about the future.
Madagascar is the world’s leading lychee producer with production reaching 70,000 tons this year (30% less due to drought). The season is very short, from mid-November to mid-January. The European market remains their number one market with consumption averaging 18,000 tons.
Published: 19 December 2017
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