Integrated processes and digital simplicity are a blessing for U.S. bound time-sensitive, fresh produce imports. Refrigerated (reefer) shipments require special handling and reliable logistics processes for maximum product value. The demand for U.S. imports of fresh fruit and vegetables is on the rise. In 2019, U.S. imports of fresh fruits and vegetables increased by about 8%, representing approximately $17 billion, as compared to 2018. You can imagine the importance of effectively handling customs clearance and the processing and documentation required for these reefer shipments. Recently, Sealand and Vandegrift, each Maersk companies, teamed up to streamline this process for Freska Produce.
Based in Oxnard, California, Freska Produce International sources mangos and avocados from around the world and imports them into the U.S.. Sealand supports Freska's Intra-Americas cold chain for mangos in Ecuador and Peru. The fresh fruit is packed in Sealand reefer containers and shipped directly to the Port of Hueneme in California. Shipments are retained in a cold storage warehouse in Oxnard prior to distribution to consumer markets.
In Peru, Sealand’s coordination of landside logistics services, including booking agent and trucking services from grower locations, further facilitate Freska’s reliable cold chain journey.
Avoiding cold chain problems is critically important. Once our shipments reach the U.S. West Coast they need to be cleared and all the supporting customs documentation must be filed on-time. For every shipment, we work to prevent cargo delays that could impact timely delivery to customers
Sealand's sales team, with support from customer service and the cold chain and reefer logistics technology teams, along with Vandegrift, sat down to outline Freska's cold chain's needs to ensure their shipments would move reliably from origin to destination.
Vandegrift, a customs brokerage and logistics company and the Maersk Customs House Brokerage (CHB) team, outlined Freska's specific customs filing requirements. Workflow controls for all document processing, such as the ISF (importer security filing) submitted post-departure and the FDA prior-notice document, would be managed on Vandegrift's advanced technology, VFI track and trace, and automated entry filing systems.
Connecting puzzle pieces
Another aspect of this collaborative relationship was the need for consistent, end-to-end, departure to final delivery, systematized communication to keep all parties informed, including regular updates on all milestones as they occurred.
An essential advantage of integrating Sealand and Vandegrift services is their ability to electronically share timely information as one cohesive, integrated container shipping logistics unit. Each business area has its own piece of the puzzle with different data sets, so each sees more than what just a customs house broker or ocean carrier would see on their own. With greater data transparency, there is a clearer picture of where the shipment is located, what documentation has been filed, and it is all shared in real-time with Freska to improve efficiency and enhance information flow.
The connectivity and workflow triggers across systems help to create an efficient process that lets Sealand handle high volumes of complex entries and communicate cargo status to Freska and Sealand Customer Service as it occurs. This provides peace of mind throughout the cargo journey and simplifies shipment management.
The end-to-end integration means Sealand customer service, the CHB team, and Freska can constantly communicate with updates provided and questions answered quickly. For example, Freska no longer needs to call the Port for information.
Digital access to timely data helps eliminate some of Freska’s manual transactional work, such as phone calls, and increase productivity. Moreover, Freska had a significant amount of manual work to track shipments and in particular, the customs process. This was a time-consuming and challenging aspect of their cold chain. It was often difficult for Freska to get answers to important freight status questions. The integrated Sealand – Vandegrift collaboration has mostly eliminated these cold chain challenges.
Additionally, another result of Sealand's integrated offering is a streamlined and simplified billing and payment solution. The Vandegrift CHB billing has been incorporated into the Sealand Bill of Lading to reduce Freska's transactional workload's complexity and size. In the past, they were spending a considerable amount of time reviewing bills.
The advantages of systematizing processes are enormous, but we can't forget the human side of ensuring an effective cold chain. With decades of expertise in handling fresh commodities and knowing the right contacts in the ports that handle this cargo, Sealand and Vandegrift effectively navigate the entry process and any hold-ups that occur.
"Great things in business are never done by one person; they're done by a team of people." – Steve Jobs
Sealand and Vandegrift understand the importance of building strong, cohesive business relationships with customers, so all can grow together.