Not unlike the fishermen who first raised their cargo from uncertain seas, those depending on air transportation for fresh seafood live and die by the weather.
“The wintertime is probably my most stressful time of year because I have so much product that’s being bumped,” says John Sands, director of fresh purchasing for Supreme Lobster & Seafood Co. in Las Vegas, which distributes fresh seafood to many of the city’s hopping hotels and restaurants.
The ability to serve fresh seafood — Maine lobster, Alaska salmon, Dover sole, Spanish shrimp — in a city surrounded by mountains in the Mojave Desert is not a miracle but an expectation, and air cargo makes this possible. Despite challenges such as increasing fuel charges, those in the cargo industry report growing demand and in response offer up-to-date technology and services to help their customers’ shipments reach their destinations safely and on time.
“When I first moved here, there was probably a small handful of restaurants that were dedicated to serving fresh seafood,” remembers Sands, who says that the introduction of wide-bodied jets in the early 1980s created a global market for fresh seafood. On a random Tuesday in May, for example, Sands had 22 air bills — 4 tons of fresh seafood — that had to be picked up from various airlines.
“Now we have so many chefs that have moved out here, especially from the East Coast, and chefs from Europe, and they expect the freshest product they can get their hands on,” says Sands.
The only time he can recall when a delay was accepted by those chefs was on 9/11 and its aftermath, when they knew that the planes were not in the air.
“They don’t want to hear that the plane is late or that the pilot had to take on extra fuel because of a storm and the product got taken off [the plane] in Denver and will be here in three hours,” says Sands. “That’s not in their vocabulary.”
Click here to read the rest of the feature on air cargo, which was written by SeaFood Business Assistant Editor Melissa Wood and appeared in the magazine’s July issue.