Largest ever container ship to berth in Cork brings millions of bananas

Largest ever container ship to berth in Cork brings millions of bananas
Pictures: Larry Cummins

There were no slips up yesterday as the largest container ship to ever berth in the Port of Cork's deepwater terminal unloaded a mega cargo of fruit - including millions of bananas.

The MV Polar Costa Rica, which measures almost twice the length of Páirc Úi Chaoimh, eased past Roche's Point after its 10-day transatlantic voyage and tied up just after 4pm at the port facility in Ringaskiddy.

A huge logistics operation kicked in to unload part of its massive cargo of bananas predominately, but also pineapples and melons, direct from plantations across Central America.

With a deadweight tonnage of 43,600 tonnes, the 230-metre long ocean-going giant was carrying hundreds of huge containers, each containing several pallets which in turn contained dozens of smaller boxes of fruit.

The capacity of the ship - when measured in bananas - is staggering.

There are about 100 bananas in each box; there are 66 boxes on each pallet; and 20 pallets in each of the ship's containers.

The MV Polar Costa Rica has capacity for 1,000 containers which means the ship could carry about 132m bananas - if that was its only cargo.

Tropical fruit importation giant, Fyffes, took 50 containers containing about 7m bananas off the ship yesterday.

Con Connolly, port operations manager with Fyffes, said vessels of this size are calling to Cork because of the scale of Fyffes' importation business.

"We alone have 312 containers of fruit on this vessel at the moment - most of them are bananas, and the rest are pineapples," he said.

Largest ever container ship to berth in Cork brings millions of bananas

"This is the ship's first call, and we've taken about 50 containers off here in Cork, but the ship will deliver the rest of our containers to the UK and Europe next, for distribution all over the UK and to nine countries across Europe. And then we'll do it all again next week."

The bananas which arrived in Cork today are green and rock hard. They will be stored at around 13-14C over the coming days, before the temperature is raised gradually, they are treated with special gas and ripened before being displayed on shop shelves, most by Monday.

The mega fruit delivery from Central America to Cork occurs weekly, but it normally arrives in a slightly smaller vessel.

Despite the size of the MV Polar Costa Rica, the discharge operation took between six to eight hours.

The Port of Cork said the efficiency of the entire operation highlights its capability as a Tier 1 port.

"As the Port of Cork recently began construction of the new Cork Container Terminal in Ringaskiddy, it is anticipated that these size vessels will soon become regular visitors to the Port of Cork," a spokesperson said.

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