With the arrival of the M/V Global Explorer on Sunday, April 16, the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority’s Pier 84 cocoa bean-handling facility has been busy discharging the largest shipment of cocoa beans that the facility has handled to date.

The M/V Global Explorer, a Japanese-owned charter vessel, arrived with 18,500 tons of cocoa beans on April 16, amounting to approximately 300,000 bags of product. The cocoa beans originated in Indonesia, one of the world’s major cocoa bean producers.

‘Seven different shippers are responsible for this record-size load, which is the biggest shipment of cocoa beans moving from one port overseas to one port in the United States,’ said Harvey Weiner, President of Dependable Distribution Services, Inc., which operates PRPA’s Pier 84 facility. ‘Most of this cargo will go to Pennsylvania end users, though some is associated with New York Board of Trade business.’ Central Pennsylvania is a major destination for the world’s cocoa bean cargoes, thanks to the high concentration of major chocolate manufacturers in the region, including Hershey Foods, M&M Mars, Wilbur Chocolate and Blommer Chocolate. Pier 84’s convenient proximity to those end users is a major reason for the facility’s success in recent years.

This has been a particularly busy year for PRPA’s cocoa facility at Pier 84.

‘In recent months, we’ve handled six vessels from the Ivory Coast, two from Ghana, and- with the arrival of the Global Explorer- four from Indonesia,’ said Mr. Weiner. Different countries have different growing seasons for cocoa beans, assuring a practically uninterrupted, year-round flow of beans to the Port of Philadelphia. For example, Indonesia’s growing season is April to October, meaning that other shipments from that country will likely be arriving at Pier 84 in the coming weeks and months.

Since assuming operations at Pier 84 about a decade ago, Mr. Weiner’s company has worked with PRPA to make a number of improvements to the facility, resulting in a number of value-added services in addition to discharging the cargoes that arrive. These services include on-premises extended storage and ‘super sacking’, which is transferring the beans from their original smaller burlap bags into the oversize sacks many end users prefer. One weather-proof super sack can hold the contents of dozens of smaller burlap bags.

‘We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished at Pier 84, but we have so much business at the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, we added a 40,000 square foot, frame-supported movable warehouse to the pier property a few years ago, and made other improvements. We’re optimistic that, working with PRPA and our leaders in the state capital, more improvements will be on the horizon.’

Mr. Weiner pointed out that space is a particular challenge in the cocoa bean business, as storage- both short term and long term- is always an issue. ‘Over the years, we’ve rented over 500,000 square feet of off-terminal storage space in the Delaware Valley, mostly in Pennsylvania, to store the beans we handle,’ said Mr. Weiner. ‘In fact, we recently gave up space in New Jersey and added more space in Pennsylvania, as we really see ourselves as a Pennsylvania-based business.’ Most recently, for example, Mr. Weiner signed a 5-year lease at a warehouse facility in Chester, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia, enabling him to service a new cocoa been processing plant in adjacent Eddystone, Pennsylvania. That new warehouse operation will encourage additional vessel calls at Philadelphia’s Pier 84, due to the close proximity of Philadelphia and Chester, Pennsylvania.

Added Mr. Weiner, ‘What we’d really like to do is add additional storage space to Pier 84, so we wouldn’t have to look off-site as much to store the beans that arrive. That would truly make Pier 84 one-stop shopping for the world’s cocoa shippers. This is a highly-competitive business, and if we don’t make these improvements, othe