How do you supply groceries to an island with many ferry delays? You adapt, says supplier

When wild winter weather regularly keeps ferries in port, keeping food on the grocery store shelves can involve a delicate dance of logistics and planning and a whole lot of warehouse space, says Valerie Morgan, public relations coordinator with Atlantic Grocery Distributors.

Her company supplies the groceries for two large supermarkets in the Conception Bay North area as well as various food products for smaller shops and convenience stores around the province and she said they’ve had to learn to adapt to the conditions.

She said it’s taken “years of experience … to make a plan in terms of how we deal with this,” she told the St. John’s Morning Show.

Atlantic Grocery Distributors has a 200,000-square-foot facility in Bay Roberts. (Submitted by Valerie Morgan)

More room, more logistics

That plan included expanding their warehouses in Bay Roberts into a 200,000 square foot facility, which even has a suite of high-tech banana-ripening rooms.

It also included the development of a tight logistics plan with their mainland suppliers.

“They empathize. They understand the distance, especially these perishable items have to travel to get to Newfoundland,” she said. “It takes a lot of collaboration to get that flow going.”

After ferry cancellations, it’s not unusual to see trucks backed up at the Marine Atlantic ferry terminal in North Sydney. (Wendy Martin/CBC)

For example, if the logistics team sees a lot of wind or bad weather in the forecast, they’ll often phone suppliers and ask if trucks can set our earlier for the province, “just so we have that extra buffer,” she said.

Sometimes, they’ll even have staff on hand late at night to unload trucks that had been delayed, she said, noting that earlier in the week, a truck had to be unloaded at 11:30 p.m. 

“Winter time, you just have to do that from time to time,” she said.

Morgan said it would take three days of back-to-back ferry delays to make a “significant impact” on their produce supply.

20 cancellations in past 2 weeks

Marine Atlantic has cancelled 20 crossings between Port aux Basques and North Sydney in the past two weeks because of weather, according to a spokesperson from the company.

But Morgan said it’s been no worse this year than it was last year.

“We know that last year we were able to stay ahead of it.”

Right now, Morgan said supplies are in good shape in their warehouses, but that it’s too soon to breathe a sigh of relief.

“We’re not out of the woods yet, there’s lots more winter to come,” she said. 

Read more stories from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

How do you supply groceries to an island with many ferry delays? You adapt, says supplier

Aggregated from: CBC | Newfoundland and Labrador News

Leave a Reply