By Christopher Williams

Florida-based Tropical Shipping established its successful Can­adian head office in Saint John 11 years ago and has since doubled its Canadian trade. With a steady spotlight on weekly Canadian reefer business to Florida, the Bahamas and Caribbean, Tropical has set the benchmark for reliable short-sea shipping. For 27 years, Tropical has built a base of Canadian clients in Montreal and Toronto.

“Our services remain the same with a strong focus in the Caribbean and Florida,” says Dennis Legere, Tropical’s Canadian Sales Manager. “Florida has grown as a key part of the service in recent years since it’s our first port of call after Saint John. Tropical’s key strength is its ability to consistently reach each destination once per week,” he says. “In many cases our customers run ‘just-in-time’ inventory. Customers in destination ports can tightly control their inventories and order a week’s worth of cargo at a time.”

For Tropical, accuracy and consistency are equally important. “It’s one thing to get into the port every seven days but another to get there on the day that it’s scheduled,” observes Legere. “We arrive at our scheduled time with unprecedented accuracy.”  He says customers can now take advantage of additional weekly sailings on the Freeport/Nassau Bahamas service for a total of four per week. “This is moving in the right direction and is a good sign that the Bahamian economy is recovering.”

Tropical has its own employees on the ground in each destination port so they can offer even the smallest customers their required attention. “We are a very customer-focused company,” states Legere. “On a smaller island like St. Barths, there may be a customer who may not be able to take a full load such as a food item for a bed and breakfast. They may not need a 40-foot container.” Fortunately, Tropical is the largest LCL (less than container load) service provider into the Caribbean. From cameras and computers to furniture and fine art, Tropical’s LCL service provides the fastest and most consistent service in the industry to 32 different destinations. “Over and above Tropical’s LCL service, our FCL (full container load) network is unparalleled. We stand alone as a niche carrier.”

Refrigerated cargo key to niche services

Another of Tropical’s strengths is refrigerated cargo. “We’ve purchased and upgraded both dry and refrigerated containers over the last two years,” Legere adds.  He says fresh fruit and vegetables and chilled and frozen meats, poultry and seafood are highly perishable and require special handling to ensure they arrive in optimum condition at their destinations. Legere says northbound cargo, such as those tasty perishables from the Caribbean, are shipped from Saint John to the Maritimes by truck and to Toronto and Montreal by rail.

Last year, Mike Pellicci took over the helm at Tropical Shipping, as only the fourth President in the history of the 48-year-old shipping company. He confirms Tropical’s key priority is providing superior customer experience. “Everything we do, every value we stand for, every course of action we take, is intended to deliver the highest level of service to our customers,” states Mr. Pellicci.

Jim Quinn, President and CEO of Saint John Port Authority for the past year-and-a-half, recognizes that Tropical Shipping has been a valuable partner in the Port for more than a decade. “We are pleased to have Tropical here, operating a very successful niche weekly container service to Florida and the Caribbean. They are truly specialists in movement of goods in the Caribbean inter-island market, which is a definite asset to our North-South focus.”