Must-Read: Dan Wang: Why Should Dole Own Container Ships?: “Meet Dole, the World’s Full-Stack Banana Company…

Bright yellow container ships call on the Port of San Diego every Monday and Tuesday. They’re owned by the Dole Food Company, and the ocean containers they carry are all branded with the familiar Dole logo. Perhaps you’ve seen its ships in San Diego Bay or one of its containers on a truck. Shouldn’t we be surprised to learn that an importer owns and operates its own ships? It’s probably not the comparative advantage for even the largest importers. And here’s the thing: Dole isn’t one of the country’s top three importers of containerized cargo. Instead it’s the fifth…. Shouldn’t we expect Dole to be even less likely than Home Depot (#3), Sears (#6) or Dollar Tree (#10) to own container ships? After all, fruits are supposed to be seasonal products, while companies like Walmart could be using their ships all year round to import their products. Why doesn’t Dole simply charter ships or buy freight space like other carriers?…

Dole is the world’s largest producer of bananas…. Bananas are grown year-round… imported on a fairly consistent basis…. Ecuador to San Diego isn’t a very active tradelane…. Dole ships have their own cranes on board. This is again an indication that the ports that Dole frequents aren’t as well developed as it would like…. It doesn’t stop at ships: Dole directly owns and operates some of the banana plantations in Central America…