By Tom Peters

Tropical Shipping, which began service through Port of Halifax in January of this year, will introduce two new vessels into its fleet in 2018 increasing its capability to move temperature controlled cargo. Tropical moved to Halifax from Saint John and provides weekly service to Florida, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

In June, 2018 Tropical, with headquarters in West Palm Beach, Florida, will begin moving cargo trough Halterm International Container Terminal on its own vessels. The company is having six new ships built and the first two vessels will be put on the Canadian service, said Gordon Cole, Tropical’s Vice President (Canada). The second vessel will go into service in August, 2018. Presently, the Canadian service employs chartered ships.

The new ships will each have capacity of 1,100 TEUs and 270 electrical plugs for temperature controlled containers. Each of the two ships now in service only has 220 plugs.

Tim Martin, Tropical’s VP Commercial & Trades, said when Tropical made its move, “We are committed to our maritime customers and to maximizing our extensive Caribbean network. With our new vessels due to start service in June 2018, Tropical Shipping is working closely with Halterm, CN and Port of Halifax to build on its specialized reefer trade, all the while enhancing our reputation for loyal customer service.”

Halterm CEO Kim Holtermand, added that, “From our perspective, Tropical Shipping’s greatest strength has been in its ability to deliver a quality refrigerated service, on-time and from end-to-end, while all the time planning for the future development of its markets with bigger vessels due in 2018.”

Tropical is working diligently to increase its business on this service, considered by the line to be “the premier carrier for reefer cargo to the Caribbean,” says Cole.

Interestingly, Tropical’s reefer business is somewhat tied to these various southern destinations because of tourism. Tropical’s Caribbean trade is based on the vacation destinations, says Cole. “Most of the product going into the islands is for vacationing spots,” he says. The line has a base of local customers on the islands but with the ever-increasing construction of vacation resorts and with the continuous increase in people taking Caribbean vacations “our business increases. In a sense, we cater to the tourism industry,” Cole said.

Most of Tropical’s Halifax cargo is export with product coming from the four Atlantic provinces, Ontario and Quebec. In addition, Tropical acts as a feeder line Halifax for major global carriers whose vessels are too large to operate in many of the Caribbean’s small ports.

There were a number of reasons for Tropical’s move to Halifax after many years of calling Saint John. “There are a lot of operational efficiencies with the move to Halifax and a lot of connectivity to the rest of the world,” said Cole. Plus, the “intermodal links are definitely a benefit for our service,” he said. CN, for example, provides a daily train with temperature controlled cars, in and out of Halifax. A further benefit, said Cole, is the greater number of cold storage facilities in the Halifax region.

Holtermand said “Tropical Shipping’s direct weekly service from Halifax to its own dedicated terminal in West Palm Beach, Florida and to the widest range of Caribbean port choices, most notably its direct call to Puerto Rico, allows Canadian exporters in the Atlantic provinces fast, efficient, access to these markets.”

He said the move by Tropical to Halifax “also challenges shippers to make new connections via Halifax – whether that is from Newfoundland to Florida or from Singapore to Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, the arrival of Tropical Shipping at Halterm provides shippers with an even stronger value proposition, at the only Atlantic container terminal handling vessels above 10,000 TEUs in capacity.”

“This is an important service for both regional Atlantic and inland Canadian exporters to the Caribbean,” said Halifax Port Authority’s Lane Farguson. “The additional direct shipping connections between the two regions translates into new opportunities for importers and exporters, particularly those who produce or specialize in frozen food products like seafood or vegetables,” he said.

“Tropical Shipping provides excellent refrigerated container service, which aligns well with the reefer capabilities at Port of Halifax. Currently, there are approximately 500 reefer plugs at each of the container terminals and the Port Authority is working to add additional capacity at Halterm,” Farguson added.