A perfectly balanced bouquet of service

Last month, Prime Group got wind of an opportunity to potentially expand operations in the flower-rich region of South America. This would be good news, as it would allow Prime Group to not only grow its network as a dedicated provider of operations, sales, and ground handling services – but to continue boost its brand here.

“To be able to expand into, Medellin, Colombia, for example would be an exciting prospect indeed, said Roger Paredes, CEO of Prime Group. “From a logistics and transport standpoint, it would be ideal to be in the three top flower-producing origins, by adding a second Colombian city.”

The world buys about $1.35 billion worth of Colombian flowers every year, making the country the world’s second largest producer of cut flowers after The Netherlands.

However, launching operations in a new city is no small task. Work on such a project would involve extensive outreach and examination, from meeting with flower farms and grower’s associations, to checking and double-checking whether a new airport would even be suitable.

“Everything from determining whether we could store the volume of pallets necessary, to warehousing and cooler capacity would need to be looked at,” said Paredes.

But for Prime Group, opening the door to Medellin would allow the company to achieve a long-awaited goal of market expansion in Colombia. “We would love to cross Medellin off our bucket list,” he said.

Responsibilities here would mirror those in Bogota and Quito, in that Prime Group subsidiary PrimeAir would supervise all operations and customer service on the ground, Paredes added, “With an eye on safety and quality of service, we ensure everything goes smoothly, supervising all the vendors – and managing all aspects of cargo transport.”

Quito, Bogota, and Medellin would be a perfectly balanced bouquet of service.

DHL incorporates PrimeAir in plan to improve experience for worldwide customers

As one of the most familiar players in the ever-expanding Latin American air-cargo logistics market, PrimeAir has once again been called on to assist a major international carrier grow its presence here.

On March 11, DHL Aero Expreso (DAE), a division of DHL Aviation, launched a six-day-a-week rotation of service connecting Quito with Lima and the carrier’s hub in Panama, for both exports and imports from around the world.

Operating a B737-400 aircraft with a capacity of more than 20 tons per flight, DHL appointed PrimeAir as its General Handling Agent (GHA) at Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO).

According to Elizabeth Suarez, PrimeAir’s General Manager for Ecuador and Colombia, the company will be responsible for all ground operations for DHL and vendor coordination.

DHL Express, the world leader in logistics with 35 years of experience in the Ecuadorian market and 50 years globally, presents Ecuador with this new flight from Quito to, basically, the rest of the world as part of its expansion plans and continuous investment in international logistics service.

At first, imports to Quito will be handled by DHL from about 25 countries such as the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico, and as far away as Australia, Japan, Indonesia, and Singapore, to name a few.

Due to the expanded capacity, the advantages of this new flight include: The option of sending pieces up to 300 kilograms, a boost in packet collection scheduling, and greater availability of space and time for preparation for exports.

This new flight, once a day, Mondays through Saturdays, is complemented with the rest of DHL Express Ecuador services, such as special solutions for electronic stores, real-time tracking system, and more.

 

PrimeAir on the Move

Since 2001, PrimeAir has been providing the best GSSA services in Latin America for the biggest players in the air cargo industry such as Atlas Air, Polar Air Cargo, and Emirates SkyCargo – making cargo services, operations, handling, and accounting easy and reliable for airlines working across the globe.

In fact, in recent months, PrimeAir has further enhanced its business relationships with Emirates SkyCargo and Atlas Air. During this same time period, in Quito specifically, the company also has boosted staffing to accommodate a shift in focus from a purely PrimeAir office to a fully diversified Prime Group operation, offering an entire spectrum of brands under one roof.

PrimeAir benefits from being part of Miami-based Prime Group, a network of coordinated cargo and freight specialists with offices and representatives worldwide.

Peak flower season brings out the best in us

Valentine’s Day and International Women’s Day are back-to-back events that account for the shipment of massive volumes of fresh-but flowers from Colombia and Ecuador. Let’s find out how PrimeAir and Prime Fresh Handling make it through this highly intense period.

We caught up with Regional Sales Director Jose Luis Suarez to share with us what the company does in South America to keep pace with the demand, while providing the highest quality customer service during the peak season for the flower industry.

 

Q. How do PrimeAir and Prime Fresh Handling support the flower industry during this peak time?

Answer: In the high seasons, PrimeAir has always been characterized by supporting the Ecuadorian and Colombian markets with additional offers to its regular flights to Miami, Amsterdam, and other connections – this year will certainly be no exception. Now, we have Prime Fresh Handling that makes our overall service integral, because we not only offer departures from Bogota or Quito but we also provide support at the destination, making our service even more attractive.

 

Q. What is the peak period for the transport of flowers from South America?

Answer: Typically, the Valentine’s Day period ends around Feb. 8 at then we move into the Women’s Day peak, Feb. 16-28. After that, we get a break until Mother’s Day, May 12, which means we are super busy again the last week of April through May 4.

Between the Valentine’s and Women’s Day back-to-back period, we have basically one week to recover, get some sleep, and get busy again. But not everything is a dream, as we have our regular flights that need to be attended to. In a new twist, over the past couple years, customers have started moving their shipments to go out just prior to the peak periods in order to get better flower prices.

 

Q. What is the volume of shipments over this peak period?

Answer: It’s a moving target, but I would say that around 20 million flowers from Colombia and Ecuador are planned be cut, gathered, and shipped with us during the Valentine’s Day and Women’s Day season.

 

Q. What’s the journey a flower makes from field to florists?

Answer: The clock starts ticking with the snip of a stem at the farm. To get flowers to their destination, the supply flow then starts as flowers are placed immediately in a refrigerated truck for transport to a cool warehouse at the airport. Here, they go through a process we call “pre-cooling,” in which any warm air that might be trapped in the box is vacuumed out. After that important step, the blossoms travel through the center of the U.S. flower distribution system: Miami International Airport, while others head off to Amsterdam. Both airports see huge spikes in volume between Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Once there, they are inspected to ensure the flora is free from harmful pests and diseases. This process can take up to four hours. But after they get a green light, they get another pre-cooling and are release to a local warehouse, where shipments are broken down and shipped off to an international location or placed on refrigerated trucks for domestic distribution. Retailers are the final link in the cut-flowers supply chain before the flower reach your sweetheart and/or loving mother’s hands.

 

Q. Other than managing air transport of flowers, do you provide other logistics services for the industry, such as shipping of bulbs or flower seeds?

Answer: Yes, we ship bulbs and seeds – and because they too are delicate perishables, they need a temperature regime and cooling systems when being transported.

 

Q. Do fresh flowers need to be packed in specific ways? Vertically or horizontally, with or without water?

Answer: It depends on the type of flower that is being transported. There are some varieties that are shipped with water like the gladiolus that must be transported vertically and with a support of water. In the case of regular fresh-cut flowers such as gypsophila, roses, etc., they are transported in corrugated cartons with enough ventilation so that moisture can get out and, of course, so the flowers can breathe and maintain their freshness.

 

Q.Who are your main customers requiring the use of air transportation for quick shipments of fresh flowers.

Answer: Freight forwarders who represent growers are the customers who need to access professional air transport services for highly sensitive perishable fresh flowers – so that they reach their destination looking appealing and fresh.

 

Q. Why is maintaining the cold chain such an important aspect of this process?

Answer: This process, known as cold chain shipping, comes into play in order to allow flowers to make it from the field to the customer at lightning speed. Without proper packaging and express shipping, flower life is cut significantly shorter. Appropriate cooling systems and temperature regime are needed to ensure that the flowers remain in good condition. Of course, retailers want to receive cut flowers as soon as possible after harvest to lengthen vase life, achieve customer satisfaction, and spur repeat sales. So, temperature-controlled transportation, handling, and storage, makes longer supply chains possible, but the time limit still maxes out at about 12 days.

 

Q. Describe the logistics and sales teams as well as the facilities in both BOG and UIO.

Answer: Each team consists of experienced professionals, highly specialized in their specific function, starting with tailor-made quotes, going through reservations consistent with the clients’ needs, and finally maintaining high-quality transport. All this is based on our premise: to always provide excellent customer service. In Bogota we have our own office located in the Cargo Terminal of the El Dorado International Airport; and in Quito, the offices in the International Cargo Terminal of the Mariscal Sucre Airport. The PrimeAir family continues growing every year and this makes me proud to be part of a team that is determined to remain at the forefront of the logistics business, which is an increasingly challenging task in this highly competitive market.

 

Q. What is your background with the company and prior to joining the Prime Group?

Answer: I am a Commercial Engineer with separate specializations in Business Administration, Marketing, and Foreign Trade – this last one sparked my interest in airside operations. My career in the logistics area began in 2006 with Lufthansa Cargo, before passing through LAN Cargo in 2015. My Master’s Degree from the Tecnológico de Monterrey encouraged me to grow even more. Since 2016, I have had the opportunity to be in charge of the commercial operations of PrimeAir’s South American region. With a specialty in the movement of perishable cargo such as flowers and fruits. My experience also extends to handling very challenging cargo items such as oversized, high-valued, high-risk material.

 

Contact Regional Sales Director Jose Luis Suarez:

E-mail:     joseluis.suarez@primeair.aero

Mobile:     (593-9) 9 555-3195
Office:       (593-2) 281-8055 Ext. 1006
Address:   Terminal Internacional de Carga, Mezzanine, Aeropuerto Internacional Mariscal Sucre Quito, Ecuador

Emirates SkyCargo celebrates five years in Quito

Last month, when Emirates SkyCargo celebrated five years of “uplifting roses from Ecuador,” the news was picked up in Air Cargo World, Air Cargo Week, and other major trade journals across the globe. After all, it’s big news.

As its GSSA in Colombia and Ecuador, PrimeAir and parent company Prime Group wish to congratulate the carrier on its great success here.

After all, PrimeAir and Emirates SkyCargo have been working closely together since Emirates first entered the market in 2013 – in Quito. And just this past summer, the partnership was significantly enhanced as the Dubai-based carrier selected PrimeAir to serve as GSSA for Emirates SkyCargo’s operation in Colombia, too.

Says Prime Group CEO Roger Paredes, “They were obviously very pleased with the high caliber service we provide – and we are so proud to be part of their continued success on the South American continent.”

PrimeAir provides in-country sales, marketing, and accounting for Emirates SkyCargo, in addition to airport services such as warehouse supervision, and ULD control.

Acknowledging that the agreement with Emirates SkyCargo is a feather in the company’s cap, Prime Group is pleased to share the good news here with our readers, on behalf of one of our most honored customers and partners, Emirates SkyCargo.

Uplifting roses with four weekly freighters in Ecuador

Roses are one of the most popular export commodities from Ecuador and are renowned for their vibrant color and long shelf life. Over the last five years Emirates SkyCargo has been facilitating exports of Ecuadorian roses as well as other flowers and perishables through its freighter operations to Quito.

Emirates SkyCargo commenced its freighter operations to the Ecuadorian capital in December 2013 with a once a week service. However, due to growth in demand and trade flows from Ecuador, the air cargo carrier increased the frequency of its freighter flights. Currently, Emirates SkyCargo’s Boeing 777 freighter aircraft uplift cargo four times a week from Quito.

Since December 2013, Emirates SkyCargo has helped transport over 50,000 tonnes of Ecuadorian exports from Quito. Fresh flowers including roses form the bulk of export commodities transported on the freighters. In 2017 alone, close to 12,500 tonnes of fresh flowers were flown from Quito to other parts of Emirates’ network in Europe, Middle East, and Asia.

High season for flower exports lasts between August and February but the peak demand for roses occurs in late January and early February in the run up to Valentine’s Day, which requires additional freighter capacity to be deployed to meet demand.

More recently, Emirates SkyCargo has also helped promote the growth of exports of perishables such as mangoes and baby bananas from Ecuador to markets such as Germany, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, and Singapore. With its global network of over 155 destinations Emirates SkyCargo facilitates the development of new export opportunities and makes an important contribution to the local economy in Ecuador where more than 100,000 people are dependent on the floriculture sector.

With Emirates Fresh, the carrier’s three-tiered suite of specialized solutions, flowers and other perishables from Ecuador retain their freshness and longevity during their journey. Emirates SkyCargo’s modern fleet of Boeing 777 freighters have controlled temperature zones set up inside the aircraft ensuring that perishable shipments travel at the right temperature.

Emirates SkyCargo, the freight division of Emirates, is the largest international airline cargo operator in the world. With an unrivalled route network, the carrier connects cargo customers to over 160 cities across six continents and operates in many of the world’s fastest developing markets.

While Emirates SkyCargo offers cargo capacity on its entire fleet, it’s dedicated fleet of freighters includes 13 Boeing 777-Fs and one Boeing 747-F. The carrier operates state-of-the-art cargo facilities at its dual hub locations in Dubai International Airport (DXB) and Dubai World Central (DWC).

PrimeAir roots run deep at Quito Station

Prime Group continues to be recognized as a significant player in the business, with the clearest sign being the continued expansion its largest station operations across its system.

Leading the way is the Quito station, the historic base of operations for the company – where it all started 17 years ago inside one small office.

Today, the primary focus is still PrimeAir’s services in support of airlines and the shipment of perishables – even as Prime Group is engaged in a strategic restructuring of the operation to ensure the Quito’s long-term success.

With about 30 employees now based in Quito, the company recently boosted staffing to accommodate a shift in focus from a purely PrimeAir office to a diversified Prime Group operation, where the entire spectrum of brands are now present under one roof.

To get a better perspective on the Quito operation, we talked with General Manager Elizabeth Suarez. She oversees PrimeAir’s representation of airlines in Ecuador and Colombia, in terms of air cargo services, operations, handling, vendor control, and accounting.

Q. Tell us about PrimeAir’s early days in Quito.

Elizabeth: PrimeAir started as a GSSA, servicing three 747s in 2001 to Miami, and over the years, has focused solely on serving air-carrier shipments of perishables – mostly flowers. We have had different experiences with different companies. But today, I can tell you, we have an important presence in the market because we are working with very reputable companies. We have found the right formula. So now, when someone thinks “Quito,” they instantly think PrimeGroup.

 

Q. Describe the physical office in Quito.

Elizabeth: Originally operating in a tiny office of about 500 square feet, we moved in 2015 into a 1,600 sqft office inside the Mariscal Sucre International Airport. But just this year, our recently expanded Administrative, Finance, Sales and Marketing team moved into a whole new area of 2,500 sqft and moved our operational team into a separate to 1,000 sqft space.

 

Q. In what ways is Quito different than Prime Group’s other station operations?

Elizabeth: UIO and BOG are similar in that we primarily focus on PrimeAir services, while LAX and JFK focus heavily on providing freight forwarding services, warehousing for perishable cargo, and distribution.

 

Q. Describe the makeup of the Quito team.

Elizabeth: We have a very experienced team of people here who are extremely knowledgeable in their respective fields – which is why our company is now known as one of the most respected in the market. The staff includes a general manager, sales director, operations manager, sales executives for each service, flight dispatchers, administrative and accounting agents, and operations and traffic supervisors and agents.

 

Q. What does the expansion mean in terms of efficiencies and accommodations?

Elizabeth: Well, more space is always good for a growing team of professionals. It allows us to be more focused and comfortable in what we do best – provide great service – not only to local cargo agencies but for all our customers.

 

Q. What’s it like with all the services of Prime Group now under one roof?

Elizabeth: Being part of the Prime Group is a challenge because we always have new projects and goals to fulfill, which makes our day-to-day work dynamic, but exciting at the same time

 

Q. What does the Quito market look like?

Elizabeth: It definitely looks challenging! Quito is a very dynamic in which you must have a finger on the pulse of the customer at all times, along with a real knowledge of handling flowers, fruits, and traditional commodities.

 

Q. Are the primary products that come through Quito?

Elizabeth: Actually, both Ecuador and Colombia have always been seen as the main producers and exporters of top quality roses, but over the years, the demand for other fresh and tropical flowers has blossomed, so to speak, as well as fresh fruit.

 

Q. How do you store, ship, and transport your product?

Elizabeth: Two words: cold chain. This is the main reason why our business is so successful. We have are able to maintain the required temperature at all transit points along the way, right up to delivery at the final destination. Coolers are waiting at the time of receipt of cargo, we’ve minimized time on ramp, carefully controlled temperatures in our freighters with latest technology, and again while in transit on the ground to final delivery. We are able to meet the high demands our customers search for.

 

Q. What’s the future of Prime Group in Quito?

Elizabeth: For 2019, it is the company’s desire to expand the portfolio of airlines we work with in order to expand into more markets in South America, Asia, and other U.S. cities and states.

 

Q. Tell us a about your experience working with the company.

Elizabeth: It has been an exceptionally rewarding experience serving with Prime Group. And a big responsibility leading PrimeAir in Ecuador and Colombia – firstly, because of my responsibilities to company leadership; and secondly, due to my commitment to my employees and their families. But of course the most important responsibility has been to meet and exceed the needs of the customer by providing top quality, efficient, professional service.

 

To reach Elizabeth Suarez, send an e-mail to esuarez@primeair.com.ec. The main point of contact for customers is Regional Sales Director José Luis at joseluis.suarez@primeair.aero.

Mother’s Day Every Day?

Some might say that every day is Mother’s Day, considering the everyday sacrifices women make for their families. But if that were the case, those of us in the business of transporting flowers would be very busy indeed.

The modern Mother’s Day that originated in the U.S. in the early 20th century initially involved wearing a white carnation for mom every year on the second Sunday of May. Since then, flowers have been inextricably linked to this holiday.

Motherhood is celebrated in many other parts of the world as well. Whether as International Women’s Day in Russia during the month of March, or coming up in late May as Mothering Sunday in the United Kingdom, mother is almost universally honored with fresh cut flowers – or in the case of France, with flower-shaped cakes, too!

The worldwide demand for flowers is also driven by the fact that 20 percent of husbands give their wives flowers on Mother’s Day. It’s no wonder that Mother’s Day has blossomed into a major holiday that boasts a 1.9 billion a year flower expenditure.

A Budding Business

PrimeAir, a division of the Prime Group, is at the forefront of this logistics sector, ensuring that the most fresh and beautiful floral bouquets get into in the arms of loving mothers on their special day – and every day in between.

And although the peak Mother’s Day season just passed, PrimeAir continues to work with key customers such as Atlas Air, Emirates Sky Cargo, and about 750 flower importers and distributors in providing that important link between the source countries and the market.

Says Prime Group President Roger Paredes, “It is evident that the 2018 Mother’s Day season was highly successful, with record breaking volumes coming out of South America, especially Bogota and Quito.”

While the U.K. has yet to celebrate its annual Mother Day, the peak flower-shipping season is typically from the end of April to the first days of May.

Back in the Day

PrimeAir has a long history in the shipment of flowers. Paredes launched the company in 2001 in Ecuador representing several air cargo carriers involved in the transport of flowers from Quito.

“The expertise we gained in those early days, and have built upon, allows us to retain long-term customers while at the same time generate new business among companies. Especially those looking for the best in customer service, know-how, and logistical management of getting flowers to Miami and beyond.”

Flowers were always very important to PrimeAir. “Initially we supported operations between Quito and Miami only, but the exports just kept growing, so we soon entered the Amsterdam market,” says Paredes.

“As business continued to grow, we did too, by moving into Colombia, New York, and Los Angeles – pretty much following the flowers all over the world.”

Prime Air also services suppliers of other perishables product lines including as fresh produce and fish, but has also evolved into the shipment of a wide range of dry cargo, up to an including aircraft engines and heavy machinery.