Engine trouble has delayed a cargo shipment of food bound for the territory but local
grocery retailers said Monday that while their deliveries are not expected until Friday, carrier Tropical Shipping has stepped up its efforts to make sure their shelves don’t stay bare for too much longer.
Tropical representatives confirmed Monday that the shipment had been expected Saturday night, but will be held up for another week after the cargo vessel heading to the territory experienced engine trouble and was detoured to the Bahamas.
“We’re being told that the best date we can expect for delivery is this Friday,” Joe Thorne, general manager of Cost-U-Less on St. Thomas said Monday afternoon. “For me that means my produce delivery that was supposed to be on the shelves this past Sunday isn’t going to be out until next Sunday, so most of that load is going to be a loss for us.”
Thorne said Tropical has been working around the clock on a solution but in the meantime, the store has been able to get some produce air-shipped out of Miami, which would cut down on the wait time for customers.
“In terms of produce, most of those highly perishable items can’t be on the water more than five or six days so, like when you buy fruit and leave it in the refrigerator for too long, we’re going to see a lot of moldy strawberries and all that when it does come in,” Thorne said. “But Tropical has been doing as much as it can. These are the things that happen on an island, you just have to have a good back up plan so you can keep things going.”
Carrie Freyn, location manager at Yacht Chandlers in Yacht Haven Grande, said her situation was a little different than the grocery stores.
“We can fly things in,” she said, adding, “but no one wants to pay the freight.” The other thing that’s different when dealing with yachts, she said, is that “they are out for 10 days.”
“Everything they take has to be super fresh. It’s not like they can run to the store if they need something,” Freyn said.
Freyn expressed concern about the obvious bump in the road that the lack of food has created on top of other competition the territory faces from St. Maarten and Cuba.
She said it is getting harder and harder to serve the yacht market.
“Jet Blue is no longer taking perishable cargo,” she said, adding that other airlines are threatening to do the same.
Freyn doesn’t have to manage the huge inventory that a grocery store does, which allows her to fly food in if she must. In this instance, according to at least two affected businesspeople, Tropical Shipping has hired planes to bring pallets of the waylaid food to split among their customers while they await the late shipment expected to arrive by boat on Friday.
And, like Thorne, other grocers – such as David Goldberg, one of the owners of The Fruitbowl – commended Tropical on their efforts to resolve the delay.
“They have done everything they can to help us,” Goldberg said Monday.
Editor’s Note: Shaun Pennington contributed to this story.