By Tom Peters

The sleek new container vessel Tropic Hope made its inaugural call to the port of Halifax in January, launching a new era for niche carrier Tropical Shipping.

Tropical Shipping, headquartered in Florida, moved its sailing service to Halifax from Saint John in January 2017 and operates weekly between the Nova Scotia port and Palm Beach, Florida, as well as to Puerto Rico, the Eastern Caribbean and the Virgin Islands. The line calls Halifax’s South End terminal, operated by Halterm, moving between 40,000 and 50,000 TEUs annually. Tropical is the premiere carrier for temperature controlled cargo in the Caribbean, said Gordon Cole, Tropical’s Assistant Vice-President in Saint John. The shipping line maintains its administrative offices and a staff of 22 in the New Brunswick city. The carrier transports products such as french fries and other foods to the Caribbean, and returns with pharmaceuticals and other products.

Tropic Hope is one of six new vessels Tropical Shipping is introducing into its fleet this year at a cost of approximately US$160 million. Four of the new vessels, including Tropic Hope, are Carib Class vessels which are 160 metres in length overall with 750 TEU capacity including 260 electrical plugs for refrigerated containers. The class can attain speeds up to 20 knots. The other two new vessels are smaller, called Mini Express Class, and will carry up to 300 TEUs with a speed of 14 knots. They can deliver cargo in ports as shallow as 12 feet and will serve Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Marsh Harbour in The Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic.

“We are pretty excited. We have been waiting three years for these new ships since we decided to build them,” said Cole. “It’s the largest (ship) building project for Tropical in its 55-year history. These ships are purpose-built for this market. They are bigger and faster and better able to handle the weather (in the Atlantic),” he said.

Cole said Tropic Hope is the second ship to be put into service. One of the smaller vessels, Tropic Freedom, was christened in late summer and is now operating in the Caribbean. The other three larger ships, Tropic Island, Tropic Jewel and Tropic Lizette and the second smaller ship, Tropic Gem, will all arrive by May, said Cole. Tropic Jewel will likely be put into the Halifax service with Tropic Hope said Cole, while the other two Carib Class vessels and the mini class ship will operate in the Caribbean and out of Florida.

The vessels were all built in China with engines from Germany and cranes from Austria.

The Tropical spokesman said business has increased for the line since its move to Halifax but what Halifax allows for the carrier is better “connectivity” with rail plus offers the advantage of connecting through Tropical’s sister company, Kestrel Liner Agencies, with the major global carriers that call Halifax.  “We have some agreements with carriers where we bring cargo out of Europe to Halifax and take it to the Caribbean from there,” Cole said.

“Tropical Shipping has been, and continues to be the leader in ocean transportation to the Caribbean. Tropical develops and maintains outstanding relationships with its customers and provides them unmatched on time reliability and fast, purpose-built, versatile ships. Our vessels are first to market with our customers’ freight,” said Tim Martin, Tropical’s Vice-President, Commercial and Trades.

When Tropic Hope arrived in Halifax, Kim Holtermand, Halterm’s Managing Director and CEO, said “the terminal has strengthened its basic workforce, operational capabilities and its handling capacity to meet its commitments to Tropical Shipping around the carrier’s delivery of the larger capacity vessels. This is a landmark day in our service to Tropical Shipping and we are proud to be playing our part in the carrier’s ongoing success.” Halterm maintains a basic workforce of more than 140 longshoremen.

Karen Oldfield, President and CEO, Halifax Port Authority, said the Port was excited to welcome the captain and crew of Tropic Hope to the port city “and we look forward to our continued work with Tropical Shipping, Halterm and our rail carrier CN Rail to further develop trade between Eastern Canada and the Caribbean.”