The Race for Zafra

January 29, 2012  |   News


At SFS we pride ourselves on our ability to handle project movements that require close attention to detail and around the clock supervision. In October this year we were called by a good friend and partner in Miami regarding a time critical project to Guatemala to enable the zafra (sugar refining process) to begin.

Our partner Al Germi of Acco Foreign Shipping, Inc in Miami, Florida explains the story;

“We coordinate shipments for all the major sugar mills in all of Central America. The zafra or burning of the sugar cane typically begins around the first or second week of November.

The sugar mills are the biggest employers in most Central American countries, employing upwards of 10,000 people or more per mill during the zafra, and generating millions of dollars in revenue on a daily basis.

El Pilar Sugar Mill Guatemala For this reason, it’s critical that all equipment and parts are shipped, cleared, delivered, installed and tested prior to the commencement of the zafra. Otherwise, each day the start-up of a sugar mill is delayed can mean millions of dollars in losses.

So when I was in Guatemala on business in early September, one of the largest sugar mills in Guatemala enlisted our assistance. They had ordered critical parts and equipment for their mill through a local distributor in Guatemala, who in turn was sourcing the product from a supplier in Europe that has factories throughout Western Europe.

Whereas the shipments were to have already been received in Guatemala at the time we met, the sugar mill was now being told that it would not be until early or mid-November until the cargo would be ready to ship. This would mean the loss of tens of millions of dollars in lost production.

Knowing that if there was anyone that could help them, it would be Acco Terramar, we came up to the plate, and told the customer to leave it to us. Because the majority of the cargo was originating from the UK, Acco Terramar partnered up with Ross Negus and Russell Cox of Southampton Freight.

Over the course of the next 2 months, the Southampton team worked day and night, often travelling to different parts of Europe to meet-up with factory personnel, calling and e-mailing both ourselves and our customer in Guatemala until the early hours of the morning.

Using pressure, persuasion and nothing short of sheer genius, Southampton Freight had the factory make the cargo available for shipment in the nick of time, and proceeded to successfully orchestrate countless air shipments, open tops and dry containers.

Finned-tubes in case after receipt at the sugar millFinned TubesFinned tubes inside the reheater







It all culminated in a phone call from the head of the sugar mill that I received today, where he profusely thanked Acco Terramar and Southampton Freight for our herculean efforts, as all the cargo had arrived on time to be installed, and that the mill will now be ready for the zafra.

In all fairness, respect and deference to Southampton Freight, I told the customer that much, if not all, the credit belongs to Southampton Freight and it was an honour to work with them on this project.

Having successfully coordinated this project move, not only have we strengthened our relationship with this customer, but will now be afforded the opportunity to coordinate an extremely large generator and turbine from the Far East and Europe in the coming months, not to mention the fact that Southampton has now made a name for itself and very good inroads with this particular shipper on this project.”

The shipments were a mixture of out of gauge ocean and air consignments and we had to use a number of different types of equipment to move such as open top ocean freight containers and flat bed vehicles for the transportation. The air shipments were a mixture of heavy pumps (weighing several tonnes each) and also a shaft almost 6 metres long weighing 1.7 tonnes!

We would like to thank Al and his client for the opportunity to be involved with this exciting project and look forward working on future projects. Watch this space!



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