PALMETTO - A company that started out taking milk from California to Hawaii has moved into a new home at the Port Manatee Commerce Center.
|Bahman Sadeghi, the managing member of Hawaii Intermodal Tank Transport LLC, said he sees a great future for Port Manatee and prospects for the company.|
Hawaii Intermodal Tank Transport is consolidating its offices in Newport Beach, Calif., and Miami to a 23,000-square-foot office and warehouse building.
"We are excited about attracting this new business to the Port Manatee area," said Kevin Button, the operations manager at the Port Manatee Commerce Center, in a press release. "Being located outside the port security gates but still contiguous with port property enables Hawaii Tank to simplify its operation, allowing truck drivers to pick up loads without having to enter port security."
When people travel to Hawaii, they may not be aware that the orange juice and milk they drink while lying on the beach or dining in the restaurants has been brought to the islands and is not a local product. Managing member Bahman Sadeghi said Friday that while Hawaii does have citrus trees, there are not enough of them to have the scale that has been achieved in the mainland U.S.
His company moves temperature-sensitive bulk foods, mainly juice and milk, in intermodal tanks.
It takes 15 to 20 days to get juice concentrate from Port Manatee to Hawaii on a ship, he said, and it gets there in good condition in one of Hawaii Tank's non-refrigerated superinsulated tanks, with a temperature gain of about .8 degrees per day.
Whether a refrigerated or non-refrigerated tank is used depends on the customer's needs, Sadeghi said.
If the application demands a long haul time, though, they have to use a refrigerated tank, especially if it's not-from-concentrate juice.
"It's basically a tank, but it handles like a box container," Sadeghi said. "It can be stacked and put on rail cars and put on a vessel and be transported. The normal road transport trailer cannot be stacked. It's basically dedicated to road transport."
The company's biggest business is still to Hawaii, he said, but the company has recently started shipping orange juice, not from concentrate, within Florida to Port Manatee, and they've shipped out more than 1,000 tanks of juice, aboard third-party vessels, from a Central Florida producer from the port to destinations in Central and South America and Europe.
"That's where we see our growth coming from, in the juice sector," he said.
While the citrus industry has been under some pressure lately from tropical weather, citrus canker and citrus greening, Sadeghi and salesman Scott Sink see a bright future for their company.
"Part of the reason why we're here is we have a long-term contract with a large juice producer that we are servicing so we felt we could provide a better service, as well as we see our growth coming from this sector," Sadeghi said. "And Port Manatee, we think, has a great future."
Sink noted that the weather is not a huge factor, though, and they can plan around the weather. Still, consumer demand can be a concern for them.
"There may be certain things we kind of steer clear of in late August and September to just kind of mitigate the risk that might occur. Fortunately, in the citrus industry, we're not in the middle of production or harvest during that time, so that's a bit of a blessing," he said. "We're strategically positioned either way."
They are also internationally positioned to take advantage of any shortages in Florida production, he said.
From an environmental standpoint, Sink said, the tanks offer another advantage because they are replacing bin, box and barrel transport, which can be labor-intensive and costly. The bin and box have a plastic food-grade liner that's only for a single use, he said.
"No matter where it goes, it has to be disposed of," he said. "These are expensive bags, and they're very bulky, and they have to be landfilled. One of the advantages of our mode of transportation is you can eliminate the use of the disposable plastic bags.
"This is kind of a new up-and-coming innovation in the citrus transportation industry."
Sadeghi noted another advantage: "We also get feedback that the quality is better because there's no impact from the packaging on the flavor."
The tanks can carry 6,300 gallons of liquid food product, he said, but the issue with shipping to Hawaii is that the tanks have to be shipped back empty. With other destinations, the containers may come back with product inside. But even on short hauls, they usually return empty.
The tanks have to be cleaned after each run, a job that takes an hour and a half, and they can be ready in 72 hours to go out with a new product. At present, Hawaii Tank is using outside facilities to clean the tanks but is evaluating the possibility of having a cleaning facility at its location here.
Michael Tran, the administrator and marketing director of Hawaii Tank, said that the company moved into the commerce center on May 1, bringing six employees. An assistant was hired locally to replace an employee who did not move from California, and the company is planning to hire an engineer and warehouse people later on.
The company has a two-year lease with hopes for a long-term future in the area, and Sadeghi said he's very happy with the port's location.
The company is also evaluating potential synergies to move goods in and out of Mexico on Sea Bridge Freight, which operates a weekly barge service between Brownsville, Texas and Port Manatee, Button said in a press release.
"Hawaii Tank is a good example of how a single port customer can create multiple business opportunities for the region," said Steve Tyndal, Port Manatee's Senior Director of Trade Development and Special Projects.
"We're not really looking for customers, we're looking for partnerships," Sink said. "For this model to work, it has to be long-term. We're not looking for the one-shot moves, unless it would fit on the other end for a back haul," meaning when a tank is coming back after delivering a product.
"We're looking for strategic partnerships within the liquid food industry."