Chilean cherries are taking an express sea voyage to Hong Kong and China ahead of Chinese New Year, courtesy of the Aspa 1 service operated by Hamburg Süd, which cuts five days off standard journey times.
Santa Catarina, the first of six weekly vessels running between weeks 47 and 52, departed Valparaiso last Tuesday (22 November) at 10pm steaming at 20 knots, and is scheduled to arrive in Hong Kong on 14 December at 4am, according to Hamburg Süd’s west coast South America area manager Tim Stout.
Cherries destined for Shanghai will connect the next day in Hong Kong to Hamburg Süd’s Asip service and dock in Shanghai just three days after they arrive in Hong Kong – a total journey of 25 days, he noted.
“The cherry harvest is advanced somewhat so the volumes actually exceeded expectations for the first of the six express voyages,” Stout told Asiafruit. “We now expect the volumes per voyage to be a little more evenly spread, with less of an increase each week until we hit the peak volumes in weeks 50 and 51. This is obviously better for us for planning the ships, and for optimising the plug capacity we have on each sailing.”
The second vessel – the Santa Barbara – departs Valparaiso on Tuesday 6 December at 11pm local time with more than 800 reefer containers on board. “The majority of the cargo is cherries of course, but there is also a good load of blueberries and avocados,” Stout said. “Volumes of cherries are expected to peak for next week’s voyage – the Santa Ursula – and the one after that, then reduce as the harvest closes out.”
With Chinese New Year falling earlier in 2017, on 28 January, Chilean exporters have less time to ship their fruit into the main import window this season. While this is one of the reasons why the Chilean cherry industry pursued the faster service with Hamburg Süd, Stout said the main driver was to improve the quality of fruit arriving in China in order to secure premium prices.