Cargo problem hits supermarkets

A new Port Authority policy should help ease a problem experienced by Cayman’s supermarkets recently in keeping their shelves fully stocked.

Many residents who visited the local supermarkets on Monday found several items out of stock, or in low supply.

While Monday’s problem had more to do with the cargo ship arriving late on Sunday, grocers say they have found things very slow in getting their inventory containers delivered, especially over the past six to eight weeks.

Foster’s Food Fair managing director Woody Foster said the many recent public holidays contributed to the situation.

‘With the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, and the port closing four days at a time, it made things very difficult for us.’

Now that the holidays are over, grocers say the problem getting containers in a timely fashion is not at the port.

‘It’s the congestion at the containers station,’ said Mike Blackmore, general manager at Kirk’s Supermarket.

Mr. Blackmore said the problem is affecting the delivery of the inventory Kirk’s buys overseas as well as locally.

‘Our local suppliers are affected, too,’ he said. ‘They have to get their goods before they can supply us.’

Allan Eden, the logistics coordinator at Hurley’s Supermarket agrees that the problem is at the Port Distribution Centre. He thinks the Port Authority’s new initiative will work well to ease the problem.

The Port Authority announced this week that it will allow containers to major importers, such as grocers, to be taken directly to those importers. Chairman of the Port Authority McKeeva Bush said the new service was initiated to ease the demands and to meet the needs of consumers, by expediting the delivery of large volumes of cargo.

Still, Mr. Eden thinks the Port could do more to help the situation, especially with regard to the cargo arriving on the Sunday ships.

‘We don’t get the paperwork in on that until 10 am on Saturday, and the office closes at noon. That gives me barely enough time to clear the perishable products. The dry goods have to be cleared on Monday.’

Mr. Eden would like to see the Port extend its hours a little under the circumstances. ‘If they could just bend two hours, I could get everything cleared,’ he said. ‘That would be excellent.’

Port Authority Director Paul Hurlston said his staff is doing all its can. ‘We have been staying open later when we can, sometimes until 2.30 or 3,’ he said. ‘With more staff, we could institute longer hours on a regular basis.’

Mr. Hurlston indicated that the port is facing unprecedented volume right now, which is complicating matters. ‘People are bringing in lots of furniture, which is unstackable and takes up a lot of space. That prevents us from getting everything in the warehouse, which creates a domino effect on the whole process.’