GPA Visits the Port of Philadelphia

By Zabeth Teelucksingh, for GPA -- This week I was privileged to visit the Port of Philadelphia on a tour organized by the World Trade Association, an organization that was established in 1931 to promote international trade. Our host, Dominic O’Brien showed us the port in a 45 minute efficiently organized tour. The port though not enormous in size, is impressive in terms of variety, specialty product expertise and efficiency.

Our first stop was the cocoa ship at Pier 84. They were receiving an estimated 18,000 tons of cocoa heading in from The Ivory Coast and offloaded here to a nineteenth century warehouse specifically refurbished for receiving cocoa products. It was explained that Philadelphia processes 80% of the cocoa for the state of Pennsylvania, much of it going to Hershey, Archer Daniel Midlands and other candy manufacturers.

Remarkably, the cocoa beans processed through the Delaware River ports also account for half of the nation's supply. In 2011 alone, the Philadelphia Port processed nearly 100,000 tons of cocoa. 300,000 if we are to count both sides of the river.

Opposite, at another wharf, bananas from Colombia and pineapples and melons from Costa Rica were being offloaded to a refrigerated warehouse designed for fruit and vegetables. Nearby, at Tioga Marine and Packer Avenue Marine Terminals, the City processes produce coming in from Chile. Philadelphia is the largest importer of produce from Chile on the East coast and enjoys a special relationship with that country.

Our next stop was the Holt Logistics shipping facility, otherwise known as Packer Avenue Marine Terminal on the Philadelphia side. There we saw blocks of containers stacked four high ready to be shipped or transported. Along the docks rows of containers stood sentinel liked waiting for routine x-ray inspection. This facility is known for its speed and efficiency in loading and off-loading, amounting to money saved all along the logistics supply chain. The Holt family is one of the biggest port based business in the area, having significant facilities on both sides of the Delaware.

Further along, hundreds of Hyundai cars sat neatly in rows waiting for distribution in to the American continent. The port facility is equipped so that the cars can be fitted with radios and car accessories prior to shipment. The port houses three intermodal rail facilities are: A brand new CSX terminal, as well as Norfolk Southern and Canadian Pacific. The latter is the southern-most point of entry to Canada via the United States. In addition to these significant rail links, the Philadelphia port is well positioned: downstream from New York and less busy, close to a major airport and the I-95 and 76 and trucking routes.

Our group was varied: business men interested in investing in the port, an engineer from the Army Corps of Engineers, logistics employees there to learn more, and representatives from the container companies using the port. As the Delaware Channel increases its depth by 5 feet, there will be more opportunities for the port of Philadelphia - there was much talk about this. Our guide, greeted guests in German, French and spoke several other languages – clearly a sign of that the port, a naturally global enclave, plans to continue growing with the world in mind.


For more detailed information on the Philadelphia ports and opportunities for growth therein, please consult this thoroughly researched Economy League report: Maritime Commerce in Greater Philadelphia.
 

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