Canada is one of the largest seafood exporters in the world. From the East Coast of Canada, the majority of seafood is caught in the waters of Newfoundland and Labrador. According to https://www.findnewfoundlandlabrador.com/, in 2019 the market value reached another high of $1.4 billion, with over 90% of seafood being exported. The main exports include shellfish (snow crab, shrimp, lobster) and groundfish.
The crab season is relatively short, starting mid to end April (depending on ice conditions) and ending mid to end June (depending on water temperature). As the ocean becomes warmer towards the end of June, crab shell becomes softer and can no longer be used for sushi, for example. At ZIM, we recognized the importance of Newfoundland early on and have been working successfully on the island for several years. The majority of the seafood we transport is exported to China.
Canada is a very big country that spans 4.5 time zones. Inland transportation is a main concern, and service must be provided 24/7 to cover all zones. The main ports of departure – Halifax and Vancouver – are in the far east and west of the country, and the distance between them is enormous. Moving goods from Halifax to Vancouver takes 10 days by train, and from cities like Montreal and Toronto about a week. Planning land transportation in advance, procuring space for our cargo on the trains, and ensuring all runs on time require our logistics and service teams to work like a Swiss watch.
Availability of equipment is also a challenge. Newfoundland and Labrador are huge islands, and the only mode of transportation is by ferry, which runs only once a week. In the high season, we have to make sure we have sufficient equipment in the island (reefers, generator sets) to supply the demand. Luckily, our teams (sales, operations, logistics) in Halifax work around the clock and in unison to make sure everything moves smoothly.
Seafood is not the only commodity we transport. We have services from Vancouver transporting meat, as well as potatoes moving from Prince Edward Island to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and other Caribbean destinations.
Most of the potatoes are sold to supermarkets, and sometimes they advertise sales in a weekly flyer. This requires that the goods arrive at very specific times. Recently, our CFX vessel carrying several containers of potatoes that had already been advertised was delayed arriving in Kingston, Jamaica. Thanks to our excellent relations with the local operators, we were able to convince them to delay departure from Kingston for several hours so we could load the containers. The potatoes made it to Puerto Rico on time, and the customer was extremely appreciative of our initiative and efforts.
In summary, we are extremely proud of our success in Canada. Despite the pandemic, 2020 was a record year and we keep growing. We have extremely good relationships with our customers who know we’re a company they can trust. Our 24/7 availability, personal touch, young fleet of reefers, and top technology differentiate us from the competition. We call this the Z Factor.
Written by: Celan Zeljko, VP Strategic Accounts, ZIM Canada