August 2005 
Volume 04, Issue 4 
Commercial Airplanes

Cool when it counts


Colombia-based Tampa Cargo, a 767-200SF operator specializing in time-sensitive perishables, is thriving amid challenges


Four days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, while many cargo carriers remained grounded by heightened U.S. security, Colombia’s Tampa Cargo was back in business. The carrier resumed air freighting flowers, fresh seafood and other delicate cargo from a region already challenged by the unfortunate legacies of a 40-year civil war and destructive drug cartels.

How this relatively small cargo company got flying while other operators languished on foreign tarmacs says a great deal about Tampa Cargo and the challenges it has overcome. While other carriers struggled with heightened security, Tampa Cargo, with headquarters in a country where security is a major concern, already had model security systems in place.

Known as a quality transporter of cargo, especially perishable and fragile goods such as produce and fresh-cut flowers, the South American carrier had long ago impressed U.S. authorities with its security measures. “Our security objective is simple,” said Tampa Cargo CEO Frederik Jacobsen during a recent tour of its Miami facility: “zero drug cases, zero terrorist acts and zero thefts.”

Now the third-largest cargo airline at Miami International Airport, Tampa Cargo is the leading carrier of international cargo at the airport—the No. 1 ranked airport in the United States in terms of international freight. To accommodate growth, the carrier is now converting its fleet to Boeing 767-200SF airplanes: It currently has four and plans to add another four by the end of 2007.

Tampa Cargo at a glance

Founded: 1973
Headquarters: Rio Negro and Bogota, Colombia
Areas of specialization: Cold-chain technology (transporting time-sensitive perishables); special care items
Employees: 800Fleet: Four Boeing 767-200SFs, two DC8-71Fs
Major markets served: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Venezuela, Mexico, United States, Suriname
Busiest periods: Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, with their demand for flowers

In Colombia, Tampa Cargo is the dominant freight carrier. Rich in natural resources, Colombia also is known for agricultural products such as coffee—think about the Juan Valdez figure in Colombian coffee ads—and flowers.

With more than 360 closed-circuit-TV cameras, 30 X-ray machines and ion detectors at all its locations, Tampa Cargo has established itself as an industry leader in not only the business of transporting time-sensitive perishables—but also the use of security in its cargo-handling operations. The Bogota station, for example, includes multiple separate security zones. Persons entering each zone, including Tampa executives, are hand frisked by security employees. U.S. government agencies often use Tampa Cargo’s security and ground-handling operations as an example of excellence.

In addition to security, Tampa Cargo has proven expertise in transporting perishables. In fact, Jacobsen said, it is unlikely products like the cut flowers, which make up most of the carrier’s export cargo, will lose a single degree of chill from the time they are loaded into refrigerated trucks to the time they are delivered to similar chilled vehicles in Miami.

Tampa Cargo can not only transport perishables, but it’s looking to provide customers with additional services as well. Recently the airline began saving retailers a step by shipping some flowers out already packed in glass vases. Asked how much of such a delicate cargo ends up broken, Jacobsen smiled and simply said: “None.”

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