Chile’s premier fruit port says operations will continue “in a controlled manner” as president declares state of emergency

Chile wildfires

Emergency workers battle the wildfires in central coastal Chile

The port of Valparaíso has been forced to reduce its operations due to the wildfires that have swept through Chile’s central region in the last four days. The fires come at the height of the Chilean fruit season, when exports of cherries, grapes and stonefruit are in full swing.

President Gabriel Boric declared a state of emergency and said he would make “all necessary resources” available to tackle the situation.

So far, 112 people have died in the forest fires, but Boric said the death toll is expected to increase significantly. According to the National Forestry Corporation, the fires have consumed more than 45,000ha, including a number of urban areas.

The smoke forced the authorities to close route 68, the main highway linking the Chilean capital with the port of Valparaíso, making it difficult for containers to enter and exit the port.

On Friday, Terminal Pacífico Sur (TPS) issued a statement saying operations would continue “in a controlled manner”.

“The Terminal is taking measures in order to reduce the impact on services. Stacking will remain suspended until Sunday, February 4 at 3:30pm,” TPS said.

“The concern at this time is in the safety of people, monitoring equipment and infrastructure; and the efforts to maintain the operation of the Terminal in this emergency situation.”

According to PortalPortuario, four ships were operating at the port as of Saturday evening: the MSC Nitya B, Ivar Reefer, Cool Royal and Merlin Arrow.

President Boric described the fires as the biggest tragedy since the 2010 earthquake and called for two days of national mourning starting this Monday.

The Port of Valparaíso is Chile’s main fruit port. According to Fruits from Chile, around 60 per cent of the country’s fruit exports were due to be shipped from Valparaíso during the 2023/24 season.