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CLS sorts out problematic shipment to Houston

CLS (Caribbean Logistics Solutions) stepped into save a project cargo shipment, after intended discharge at the Port of Houston was refused on phytosanitary grounds

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The cargo was originally loaded onto a Jumbo heavy lift vessel in Rotterdam, destined for a chemical plant in Houston, Texas. On arrival and after commencing discharge, the US authorities found the wooden packing of the cargo to be contaminated with a species of Horntail (wood wasps). They immediately ordered the shipment to be reloaded to the vessel and the departure of the vessel from the port.

 

This is where C-Logistics Solutions Srl (Caribbean Logistics Solutions, or CLS), a member of Project Cargo Network, came into the picture. CLS is based in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic and its main international sales office is in Miami, FLA, USA.

 

The shipper’s charterers contacted CLS in search of an alternative port in the Caribbean, where the cargo could be discharged, fumigated and repacked.

 

First, CLS tried the Dominican authorities, but they denied permission while the vessel was still at sea. In the meantime, the shipper had managed to gain permission to push the operation into Panama, so the vessel turned round.

At Freeport the cargo was first offloaded to a barge
At Freeport the cargo was first offloaded to a barge

After arrival and inspection, the Panamanian authorities also denied unloading. CLS was contacted for a second time and asked, once again, to look for options. Colombia and Venezuela refused, but a positive response came from the Bahamas.

 

After much deliberation, the shipper agreed to steam the vessel towards the Bahamas, pending acceptance of a "firm" permit. If denied prior to arrival, there would have been no other choice but for the vessel and its cargo to return to Rotterdam, in the hope of resolving the situation there.

 

The fumigation process was problematic, due to the toxic nature of the fumigant. If fumigated aboard, the crew would have to be evacuated for the duration, which was logically infeasible whilst the vessel was at anchor.

 

In addition, the prescribed fumigant (methyl bromide) is being phased out in the US (and elsewhere), so an alternate fumigant had to be found.

This was finally determined to be sulphuryl flouride, but since there is no record of its effectiveness against Horntail wasps, the authorities agreed to a dosage 10 times stronger than normally used against termites, with treatment completed a minimum of 60 hours prior to final inspection and approval to dock and discharge.

 

This started operations once more, including the following processes:

  • Vessel to anchor off in Freeport’s roads
  • Vessel, holds and cargo inspected
  • Holds and cargo to be ‘fogged’ to kill any live wasps
  • Cargo to be discharged to a flat top barge
  • Cargo to be covered and fumigated
  • Final inspection, berth and discharge
  • Unpack and incinerate the lumber
  • Repack and ship

These obstacles extended what was estimated to be a 10-14 day operation to a whole month, until CLS finally loaded the cargo on to a MSC vessel.

 

Additional complications appeared with a convoluted packing construction. CLS was not aware of the packing configuration and structure, one case took them more than three hours to dismantle and another five hours were needed to sort and tally its contents.

 

To avoid any further agricultural problems with the US, CLS decided not to repack in lumber, but to fabricate steel cradles for the large units and load the ancillary cargo loose into open top and dry van containers. This extended operations by another week as they waited on Freeport Shipyards to build the cradles.

 

Fortunately for the project engineers, they had shipped the 600 tonne chemical reactor early, and it had to be installed on site before the ancillary parts and equipment shipped from Rotterdam.

 

Hence, the delay did not affect the overall project time line to any great extent.

 

According to the information gleaned during this episode, it was surmised that the wood used for the original packing in Germany was not all necessarily treated at the requisite 60deg C and/or not for the requisite time. Heat treatment makes the wood unpalatable to the wasps, so any larvae embedded within the wood that may hatch die of hunger.

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