Agricultural importer Dole Fresh Fruit is adding Port Tampa Bay to its containerized service offering between Central America and the U.S. Gulf.

Starting in late July, Dole’s US Gulf Express will have a weekly direct call at Port Tampa Bay from Puerto Cortes and Puerto Castilla in Honduras and Puerto Barrios in Guatemala. The service will bring bananas and pineapples to the port.

The US Gulf Express will also include Port Tampa Bay in a fixed weekly container service between Central America and the U.S. Gulf Coast. Dole Ocean Cargo Express, which is part of Dole’s commercial cargo division, offers this service to and from Puerto Cortes and Puerto Barrios, with inland service to El Salvador. The other U.S. ports that are part of this service are in Gulfport, Mississippi, and Freeport, Texas.

“Dole Ocean Cargo Express is extremely happy to announce the addition of the Tampa call to our Gulf Express Service,” stated John Trummel, vice president and general manager of Dole Ocean Cargo Express. “It provides another competitive avenue for refrigerated cargo, automobiles, general cargo and other like commodities to get to their markets faster and more competitively.”

Norton Lilly International will continue to represent Dole Ocean Cargo Express for this service, which will be operated with two new vessels, MV Dole Maya and MV Dole Aztec, according to Port Tampa Bay.

The two state-of-the-art vessels were built this year and utilize exhaust scrubbing technology to reduce SOx emissions by 52% and NOx emissions by nearly 66%, according to the port.

Port Tampa Bay sees the new service as a way of expanding trade visibility with Central America.

“We are delighted to welcome Dole to the Port Tampa Bay family,” stated Paul Anderson, Port Tampa Bay president and CEO. “This marks a major milestone in our strategic efforts to continue to diversify our cargo mix and expand our container volume, which is now our fastest-growing line of business.”

Port Logistics Refrigerated Services (PLRS) will provide terminal and stevedoring at the port. The PLRS terminal includes a new 135,000-square-foot cold storage warehouse, 148 reefer plugs and fumigation services, as well as an adjacent berth served by two dedicated mobile harbor cranes, Port Tampa Bay said. The facility has proximity to the Tampa/Orlando I-4 corridor and can easily access Central Florida markets.

“Our biggest advantage is our quick turnaround on loading and unloading ocean freight and trucks, all located in a favored logistics hub. This is a great achievement for Port Tampa Bay and the city of Tampa and we look forward to a long-term partnership with Dole,” said Dick Corbett, a Tampa developer affiliated with PLRS.   

Dole Fresh Fruit is a subsidiary of Dole Food.

Port Tampa Bay handles bulk, breakbulk and containerized cargoes, and it also serves as a fuel energy gateway. It handles over 37 million tons of cargo annually. 

The U.S. imported between $2.1 million and $2.2 million annually in fresh bananas from 2017 through 2020 and between roughly $610,000 and $640,000 in fresh pineapples during that same time frame, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture

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