The Chinese state-owned shipping and logistics services supplier company, Cosco (China Ocean Shipping Company), opened a new maritime service between Moin (Limon), and Shanghai (China), which will reduce transit time from 34 to 40 days to 22 or 23 days.

The new direct service to Shanghai will be on a Cosco ship that comes from Houston, arrives at the Moin Container Terminal in Limon and then leaves for China. Photo for illustrative purposes courtesy of APM Terminals

The first ship arrived last Sunday at the Moín Container Terminal (TCM) and left at dawn on Monday after collecting volumes of four Costa Rican products: pineapple, banana, meat and orange juice.

The export sector, the Ministry of Foreign Trade (Comex) and the Foreign Trade Promoter (Procomer) celebrated the opening of this service, as sales to the Asian giant had encountered major logistics problems, so much so that transits of up to 40 days, reduced the competitiveness of fresh Costa Rican products.

Cosco’s ship came from Houston, Texas, docked at Moin and from there sailed on a direct trip to Shanghai, something that had not been achieved so far. At this test time, the service will be repeated in 22 days.

Alfredo Volio, vice president of the National Chamber of Producers and Exporters of Pineapple (Canapep), explained that after serious transportation problems to send that fruit to China, in November last year, producers and the head of Comex, Dyalá Jiménez, traveled to China and they raised the problems with Cosco.

Volio, who is a pineapple producer and exporter, recalled that the first experience presented him with a series of problems. “Some containers were sent by Moín, others by Caldera, others by Panama after a long land transfer, a complete nightmare,” he lamented.

Such inconveniences, he stressed, lengthened the times, but shipments had to be made to meet customers.

For Volio this is a very good step, although now they have two challenges. First, buyers and distributors in China must be recovered; and, on the other hand, it is necessary to demonstrate to Cosco that the frequency of the service is needed once a week because for exporters of fresh products it is of great relevance the frequency of the trips.

Through a free trade agreement (FTA), which has been in effect since August 1, 2011, Costa Rica had intended to enter the Chinese market. However, specific phytosanitary protocols for each product must be negotiated, and each company must demonstrate that it complies with the protocol, before being authorized to export.

Currently, Costa Rica has approved protocols for several fruits, as well as for meats and dairy products, but the logistics were challenging.

Procomer figures indicate that by 2018 total sales from Costa Rica to China totaled US$194 million. The main products shipped were prepared or preserved citrus, ethyl alcohol, sugar, beef, as well as precision and medical equipment.

The president of the Chamber of Exporters of Costa Rica (Cadexco), Laura Bonilla, recalled that this sector has long since expressed the need to negotiate logistics services to send products to China.

“From the Chamber, we have been pressing; We managed to open the pineapple market with great effort, for example, but then there was the transport problem,” said Bonilla.