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Miami is trying to boost cargo flows following a raid on its market share from gateways on both the east and west coasts.
Kevin Lynskey, deputy port director for Port of Miami, said business had “been tough” in Florida.
“Every tradelane has flatlined. In the entire south-east US, it hasn’t improved in 10 years, he told delegates at Air & Sea Cargo Americas in Miami.
“South American trade flows have been picked at by the Gulf coast and New York. Any growth has been to China and South-east Asia.”
As a result, Miami’s port and airport have launched a pilot scheme which would see no further customs inspections between the port and airport.
Miami Airport, which has seen tonnage rise 5% this year, is also planning a foreign trade zone and is considering manufacturing goods at the airport.
The trade zone plan has been welcomed by customers. Emily Stavis, director of imports at Stavis Seafoods, said: “The zone will help get perishables into Miami’s bonded warehouses and then straight out.
“We bring it here and then resell it to the largest customers: the cruise lines. And the cargo doesn’t have to move too much – that’s going to blossom in Miami.”
Both port and airport have bemoaned the loss of flows to other parts of the US. Ms Stavis pointed out that the majority of fish for the US – around a billion pounds in weight – goes into into New Jersey, New York and Los Angeles, with less to Miami.
“There is room for growth in Miami,” she added.
Robert Fay, president of Florida Freezer, said: “We are the closest market to the producing region – [using] New York and New Jersey doesn’t make any sense. But how do we get this business? How do we capitalise on our experience to grow our perishables hub in air and sea?”
While some trades have struggled, routes to Asia from Latin America have been particularly strong, with trade to China growing well.
“Our US market is mature, with mid- and lower-income families in the US now eating seafood,” explained Ms Stavis.
“China has always loved fish, but can’t farm enough for its own consumption, so it is buying from suppliers that used to consider the US market number one.
“Now the Chinese set the price,” she added, citing the price of lobsters which had gone up from $16 to $22 “just because of China”.
American Airlines, meanwhile, has launched a daily service from Los Angeles to Beijing, capitalising on some of this growth. It expects to see perishables, electronics and medical products exported, while inbound it believes it will attract auto parts for hybrid cars and computer parts. AA also hopes the service will feed into its Latin American network.
“Customers have confirmed that there are a lot of opportunities there,” said Lisa Oxentine, AA’s managing director cargo sales.
She added that AA was expanding out of Miami, with new capacity boosted by 777-300s, as well as strong trucking connections.